Many people are aware that workers can suffer injuries on the job, but not everyone knows that some of the harm that comes to employees in the workplace cannot always be immediately seen. There are also cases in which workers may contract a serious illness or disease as a result of their work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an estimated 300,000 occupational diseases and illnesses were contracted in the year 2002 alone.
What is an occupational disease?
An occupational disease is an illness or condition that results from an employee’s work environment or “arising out of and in the course of employment”. Examples of conditions commonly contracted in the workplace include lung disease, mesothelioma, lead poisoning, asbestosis, eczema, skin cancer and hearing loss. These maladies, and others, can result from exposure to chemicals, loud noises, radiation and other hazards that may be present in the work environment or the tools, equipment and supplies used by employees.
When employees in Illinois develop occupational diseases, they are protected by the state’s Occupational Disease Act. Under the act, workers who become ill or contract a disease on the job are generally eligible for benefits similar to those offered through the state’s workers’ compensation law, including coverage of any medical treatment required for and resulting from their work-related condition, as well as partial and permanent disability pay.
In some cases, a worker may not develop symptoms or become disabled due to an occupational disease for months or even years after the exposure, which can make it difficult to trace an ailment back to a specific incident. Under the state’s workers’ compensation laws, a worker has only 45 days to report an injury or contagion exposure and must provide the date of the incident. While this would preclude many who develop an occupational disease from eligibility, the Occupational Disease Act gives employees more time in which to report their condition.
In order for a worker to receive compensatory benefits for an occupational disease, he or she must report their condition within three years of the date when the disease first developed or became disabling. Employees who contract occupational diseases must prove that their condition was caused by their employment. Workers are often required to provide their medical records to help show that their illness is not the result of outside factors.
Proving a condition is eligible for compensatory benefits can be difficult in some cases. Anyone who finds themself suffering from an occupational disease may find it of benefit to seek legal counsel. An attorney can help ensure you understand your options and that your rights are upheld.
In the United States in 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that vehicle accidents involving speeding cost $210 billion in economic and societal harm. Although speed-related crashes cause serious injury and death across the country, Illinois is one of seven states that limit the use of speed cameras. Twelve other states prohibit their use. Speed cameras sense and discourage motorists from exceeding the speed limit with automated enforcement technology. Representatives in Illinois want to install speed cameras in communities smaller than the current minimum of one million people. Chicago is the only city in the state that meets the current criteria.
Support for the installation of speed cameras
Belleville Representative Jay Hoffman is the state lawmaker who introduced the legislation. Many law enforcement officials agree that enacting this law uniformly across the state would promote safety by reducing speed-related car accidents in problem areas, particularly school zones. Hillsdale Representative Mike Smiddy agrees that speed cameras are necessary to protect children in school zones.
Speed-related accidents cause nearly half of fatal crashes in Illinois
According to United States census statistics, 911 fatalities occurred in Illinois in 2009 because of speed-related accidents. Exceeding the posted speed limit is a factor in more than 40 percent of the fatal crashes in Illinois. In a recent case, an 18-year-old girl died in a crash on her way home from work. Local law enforcement said the accident appeared to be speed related because there was not another car involved in the accident, and toxicology reports indicated that alcohol was not involved.
Motorists believe speed cameras violate their rights
While legislators and law enforcement officers and numerous reports by various agencies maintain that automated enforcement technology such as speed cameras have the potential to make the roads safer, motorists do not agree. Many have argued that using cameras to enforce traffic laws has been used as a revenue generator for private agencies, or that technology used to record infractions violate individual rights to privacy.
Lawmakers addressed these concerns more than a decade ago, and set mandates for the use of revenue garnered from tickets issued from evidence provided by speed cameras. Regarding the assertion that motorists’ privacy rights have been violated, courts have ruled that, because driving a vehicle takes place in public and is a privilege not guaranteed for everyone, privacy while operating the vehicle is not protected by the Constitution.
Individuals injured in a speed-related accident should seek legal counsel for compensation due to a driver’s negligence or reckless driving.
Motor vehicle accidents are all too common throughout the U.S. In 2012 alone, there were more than 270,000 collisions in the state of Illinois. Accidents can be caused by any number of factors, but historically, speeding and alcohol have been the top contributors. According to the National Safety Council, distractions are now also among the leading causes for motor vehicle involved crashes in America. A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that a distraction of some kind was involved in 80 percent of all auto accidents.
Distractions facing today’s drivers
In relation to driving, a distraction is anything that is competing for a driver’s attention. There are numerous distractions that may divert a motorist’s attention away from the road, including listening to the radio, talking on the phone and text messaging. For the most part, there are three primary types of distractions – visual, manual and cognitive. Visual distractions are those that take the driver’s eyes off of the road. Manual distractions take the driver’s hands off of the wheel. Cognitive distractions are those that take the driver’s mind off of the task of driving.
Studying the effects of cognitive distractions
Of the distractions drivers face, the effects of mental distractions are the least researched. The goal of a recent study by the American Automobile Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety was to gain a better understanding of how cognitive distractions affect drivers by creating a scale to measure these types of distractions.
In the study, participants were asked to perform different tasks in a lab, a driving simulator and an instrumented car. Electronic sensors, cameras and other equipment were used to gather data throughout the tasks. Researchers determined the low and high end of the scale by monitoring the participants driving without any distraction and while completing a set of complex math and verbal problems. The study participants were also asked to listen to the radio, listen to an audiobook, talk on both a hand-held and a hands-free phone, converse with a passenger and use some type of speech-to-text technology.
Study shows mental distractions a threat
The study’s findings showed that drivers could be distracted, even if their eyes were on the road and their hands on the wheel. The use of speech-to-text technologies and other hands-free options has long been thought of as effective in reducing distractions to a driver. However, the study showed that using this type of technology was one of the most distracting tasks for drivers. On the whole, the tasks were shown to cause increased mental workloads for the drivers, which resulted in:
In January of 2014, Illinois passed a law banning the use of hand-held phones by drivers. Based on the new study, however, going hands-free may not be enough to keep drivers from getting into a distraction related accident. Therefore, avoiding all distractions while driving is the best way for motorists to ensure that they are not endangering themselves or anyone else.
Mental illness is prevalent throughout the U.S. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in four adults in America experiences some type of mental illness in any given year. There are a number of mental conditions from which people may suffer. Depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are two of the more commonly experienced illnesses in the U.S.
For many, the effects of these psychological conditions have an effect on not only their personal lives, but their professional lives as well. Often, symptoms can make it difficult to be attentive and productive in the workplace. Under the state of Illinois’ Workers’ Compensation Act, employees who are injured on the job or as a result of their job may be entitled to both physical and mental rehabilitation.
The NIMH reports that 14.8 million people, ages 18 and older, struggle with depression, a mood disorder in which a person may have feelings of sadness, anger, or frustration. The symptoms that accompany depression, including irritability, trouble concentrating and loss of interest, can drastically affect a person’s ability to work. A worker in Illinois may be entitled to workers’ compensation coverage for a mental illness if that condition results from a physical injury the worker suffered on the job. For example, mental illness coverage may be available to an employee who injures his or her back at work and becomes depressed because of the injury.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety condition that may be developed after a person experiences an extreme trauma. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 7.7 million American adults have PTSD. People suffering from PTSD may feel anxious when in a large group, disconnected or detached from people they interact with, be easily startled by unexpected noises or have trouble concentrating and sleeping, all of which could seriously impact their ability to perform their job.
Post-traumatic stress disorder may be covered by workers’ compensation in Illinois if it is the result of an employee experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event in the workplace. In one case, for example, a judge awarded a bus driver with the Chicago Transit Authority total temporary disability benefits for PTSD. The driver developed the condition after she was involved in a fatal collision with a pedestrian while driving a city bus.
Workers’ compensation for mental illnesses
While mental illnesses can have an effect on a person’s performance at work, there are some cases when an employee may develop a psychological condition as a result of his or her job.
It can be difficult, however, for employees to get workers’ compensation for mental illnesses. This is because psychological conditions are only compensable if a qualified physician determines that the condition exists and that it is work-related. Anyone who feels they may have suffered a work-related mental illness might want to talk to a lawyer to learn more about their rights and discuss their options.