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New Illinois Law Would Allow Latent Injury Claims Past Statute of ReposeThe Illinois General Assembly has passed legislation that extends the opportunity to receive compensation when people suffer from work-related occupational diseases. If signed by the governor, the law would allow plaintiffs to file civil lawsuits against employers if the statute of repose for workers’ compensation has expired. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that workers’ compensation was the only recourse for people seeking compensation for occupational diseases and that the 25-year statute of repose is a strict time limit for when a plaintiff must file a claim. The new law would effectively circumvent that ruling.

Occupational Diseases

Unlike most workplace injuries, an occupational disease develops from long-term exposure to a contaminant and not from a specific event. Common causes of occupational diseases include:

  • Exposure to radioactive materials; and
  • Inhalation of harmful substances, such as asbestos.

The period of repose is the length of time after the worker’s last known contact with the contaminant that a plaintiff has to file a workers’ compensation claim. Depending on the cause of the occupational disease, the statute of repose could be as little as two years or as long as 25 years. However, it can take years to decades for a worker to become aware of an occupational disease, such as cancer or respiratory diseases.

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