The prospect of developing some form of cancer is a source of dread for most people. In addition to the threat to life itself and other possible effects on physical and emotional well-being, concerns over the financial cost of treatment are prominent. Fortunately, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Diseases Act enables Illinois workers who develop cancer during the course of employment to receive benefits through their employer in order to cover lost wages, medical costs and other damages.
Even though workers’ compensation benefits are available to work-related cancer victims, there are a number of challenges associated with seeking and receiving workers’ compensation for this potentially devastating occupational illness. Among others, challenges include:
- The cancer may not manifest itself for a long period of time after its origin
- The relationship between the workplace and the cancer may not be clear
- Victims may wish to consult with a variety of doctors
Cancers generally do not manifest themselves for relatively long periods of time, which may create considerable space between a work-related origin and the manifestation of a cancer. In most cases, the Act requires workers to notify their employers within 45 days of the injury and to file a claim with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission within three years of the injury. In recognition of the incompatibility of these requirements with many occupational diseases, there are provisions that extend these timetables in specific cases. To illustrate, workers who develop cancer in consequence of workplace-related exposure to radiation or asbestos are granted greater notification and filing flexibility.
Although significant progress has been made, the causes of specific cancers remain disputable in many cases. Since the key to any workers’ compensation case is proving a causal relationship between the workplace and the injury in question, the lack of clarity in this domain can make cases more challenging for cancer victims. In some fields, this challenge has been remedied through the revised Act. EMTs, Paramedics and Fire Fighters who develop certain cancers, for example, are automatically presumed to have done so through those respective employments.
Another workers’ compensation challenge that is highlighted for cancer victims is the limitation on claimants’ freedom to choose their own doctors for treatment. While there is a provision in the Act that allows injured workers to see up to two doctors of their choice, this freedom is limited.
Workers who are in the process of claiming workers’ compensation for cancer or another work-related injury or disease might wish to consult with a workers’ compensation attorney.