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When Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Workplace Illnesses?Sicknesses have a way of spreading around the workplace, due to the close proximity of co-workers and difficulty in killing all of the germs that can contaminate common areas. Communicable diseases such as influenza are rarely a reason to file a workers’ compensation claim. It is difficult to attribute the illness to your work, and using sick days will cover most of the cost to you. However, there are more serious illnesses that could prevent you from working for weeks or months and require hospitalization and expensive care. For some workers, the threat of illness at their workplace allows them to claim workers’ compensation benefits.

Occupational Disease

A serious illness that you contract from work may be an occupational disease, which workers’ compensation insurance will cover. For instance, Legionnaires Disease comes from bacteria that may contaminate a workplace, and nasty viruses can spread from person-to-person. Most occupational diseases do not come from viruses or bacteria but from long-term exposure to hazardous conditions, such as:

  • Airborne contaminants
  • Radiation poisoning
  • Lead poisoning
  • Loud working conditions

These workplace hazards can cause chronic conditions, such as respiratory diseases and cancer. An illness from a virus or bacteria can also cause permanent damage if the symptoms are severe.

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Traffic Fatalities Declining in Most Statistical CategoriesThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently reported that 36,560 people were killed as a result of motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. in 2018. While any amount of traffic deaths is tragic, the 2018 number was actually a 2.4 percent decrease from 2017. Though not always steady, the number of motor vehicle fatalities reported each year has decreased by almost 18 percent since 1975. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is a third of what it was in 1975, which is more impressive when you consider that the annual VMT has more than doubled since then. In other words, Americans are driving more than ever and still decreasing the number of traffic deaths. There are other findings from the NHTSA report that are worth exploring.

Why the Decrease?

There are several explanations for why the rate of traffic fatalities has decreased in the last 40 years:

  • There have been effective public awareness campaigns about wearing safety belts and avoiding impaired driving.
  • Enforcing traffic laws, such as tickets for not wearing a safety belt, has discouraged the risky behavior.
  • Vehicles are better designed to avoid accidents and protect occupants in the event of a crash.
  • Emergency response systems and medical technology have improved, saving more lives.

Even with an overall decline in fatalities, there are clusters of years when the number of motor vehicle deaths has increased. For instance, the number of fatalities increased by 8.4 percent in 2015 and 6.5 percent in 2016. One possible explanation could be the rising use of handheld digital devices, which increased distracted driving.

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Court Rules That Portion of Illinois Stalking Law Infringes on Free SpeechAmericans regularly exercise their right to freedom of speech, which prohibits the federal, state and local governments from creating laws that would hinder free speech or create a chilling effect on free speech due to fear of punishment. However, criminal courts have established exceptions to free speech when the speech constitutes criminal activity. You can be charged for making verbal threats that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their immediate safety. It can be difficult to define the line between free speech and a criminal act, and courts are mindful of laws that may unintentionally punish people for speech that is not criminal. For instance, an Illinois appellate court recently found a section of the state’s criminal code on stalking to be unconstitutional because it was overly broad in its limits on speech.

Recent Case

In People v. Morocho, the defendant was convicted of three counts of aggravated stalking for sending threatening text messages to a woman with whom he had a child. The offense was aggravated stalking because the defendant had allegedly caused a bruise on the woman’s arm from a previous incident. Illinois defines stalking as:

  • Engaging in a course of conduct that the suspect should know would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or suffer other emotional distress
  • Following or surveilling a person on at least two occasions and threatening harm or causing someone to reasonably believe they are threatened

One of the counts that the defendant was convicted for was based on the section of the law that defines stalking as causing someone to “suffer other emotional distress.” On appeal, the defendant argued that this section of the law was overly broad and unconstitutional. The court agreed that the wording of this section could allow people to be prosecuted for lawful speech. It stated that the law separated speech causing emotional distress from speech that causes someone to fear for their safety and that someone could feel distressed from speech that clearly did not fit any definition of stalking. The court reversed the defendant’s conviction on the one count and upheld the other two counts.

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How to Share Your Children’s Halloween with Your Co-ParentHalloween is a fun celebration for those who are young or young-at-heart. If you are a parent, the main enjoyment you get from the holiday is probably seeing your kids in costume, participating in the Halloween traditions that you remember from your childhood. That is why holidays such as Halloween can be difficult for divorced parents – there are a finite number of years before your kids feel they are too old to have their parents tag along for trick-or-treating. Rather than one of you missing out on this family experience, you should discuss how you can share the holiday with your co-parent.

Trick-or-Treating

Trick-or-treating is the main event, as well as an activity that needs parental supervision with younger children. There are several ways you can share this activity with your co-parent, including:

  • Both of you accompanying your children
  • Alternating which of you is with the children each year
  • Splitting the time between you

Before you decide to take your children trick-or-treating together, you should consider whether you will be able to get along with each other and whether your children will understand that doing this activity together does not mean you are getting back together. If you are splitting the time, you have the option of each taking your children trick-or-treating in your own neighborhoods. However, transporting your children between neighborhoods may make the holiday more hectic than enjoyable. You also must consider whether they would be happier trick-or-treating with their friends in the neighborhood that they are most familiar with.

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What Are the Most Common Workplace Safety Violations for Public Employees?Many employees of the state of Illinois and its municipalities put themselves in hazardous situations in order to perform a public service. Some employees, such as firefighters, may have to literally put their lives in danger in order to protect civilians. Others, such as employees with public works departments, use potentially dangerous equipment and materials.

Public employees are entitled to file a workers’ compensation claim when they are injured on the job. Some workplace injuries are unavoidable, but others occur due to safety violations. The Illinois Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for inspecting the workplaces of the state’s public employees and enforcing safety standards. The Illinois OSHA recently released lists of the top five safety violations in the fiscal year 2019 for Illinois fire departments, public works departments, and water and sewer departments. The different departments shared several common violations:

  1. Hazard Communications: This was the top violation for public works and water and sewer departments, as well as the third violation for fire departments. Public workplaces are required to label their hazardous materials, maintain a database of the materials, and train their employees about the hazards.
  2. Protective Equipment: Respiratory protection was the top violation for fire departments, while personal protective equipment was the fifth violation for water and sewer departments. Firefighters need respirators to prevent them from breathing in harmful substances that fires can create. Water and sewer workers may need protective covering and respirators when they are working in unsanitary environments.
  3. Safe Walking Surfaces: This was the fourth violation for public works departments and the fifth violation for fire departments. The departments are supposed to clear walking surfaces of slip, trip and fall hazards, such as wet spots, sharp objects, and loose boards.
  4. Emergency Preparedness: Medical services and first aid was the second violation for water and sewer departments. Departments must have someone who is trained to administer first aid and adequate supplies, in the event that there is not an infirmary nearby. Emergency action plans were the fifth violation for public works departments. Employees must be trained in how to respond to an emergency, such as a fire.

Contact a Crystal Lake Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

You do not need to prove that a safety violation caused your injury in order to receive workers’ compensation benefits. A McHenry County workers’ compensation attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, will help you prove a connection between your injury and your work. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838.

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