Are there benefits available if an injury occurs over a period of time from both work and non work activities, but without a specific accident I can identify?

This is the next of a series of columns on how the law can impact your life. Each month we will focus on various aspects of the law relating to personal injuries, those that happen both on-the-job and otherwise, including mishaps which occur in driving vehicles, using products and receiving medical care. The column will also respond to legal questions relating to personal injury that are sent to us.

Healy Scanlon Law Firm is comprised of eight trial attorneys, two of whom are from Ireland. We are located downtown at 111 West Washington Street, Suite 1425, Chicago, Illinois 60602 (312-226-4236). . The firm concentrates in the representation of injured victims of all types of accidents.


We receive many inquiries concerning personal injury matters and workers’ compensation. This month’s article responds to some of them.

Are There Benefits Available If An Injury Occurs Over A Period Of Time From Both Work and Non Work Activities, but Without A Specific Accident I can Identify?

Repetitive trauma cases raise many issues. Most people recognize that if they have a specific accident on the job in which they suffer an injury, they are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, many people do not realize that if their job exposes them to injury not resulting from a specific accident, they may still recover benefits under Illinois law.

In some instances, if a worker suffers an injury that is not traceable to a specific date at work but is due to repetitive motions or overuse of a body part, they are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

Under Illinois law, if work activities cause or contribute to an injury, a worker may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

Many construction workers use vibrating power tools that after repeated daily use, can cause injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome or other types of nerve injuries. Often, a worker notices symptoms such as tingling and numbness in the arm or hand even when not working. As long as the worker’s injury can be traced back to an employment activity, he can assert a claim under the Workers’ Compensation Act.

Working in many trades is hard on the body. In addition to a full workday of heavy labor, many workers stay very active in sports and around the home. Over time, all of this activity can put stress on the body even without a specific accident or injury. As long as the ultimate injury is traceable to a repetitive activity on the job, a claim can be made even though non-work activities may also have contributed.

Most Employers Have Workers’ Compensation Insurance – What Happens If My Employer Does Not Have Insurance?

Recent studies acquired by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission estimate that 91% of Illinois employees are covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. Illinois law requires employers to provide workers’ compensation insurance for everyone who is hired or whose employment is localized in Illinois. The typical employer has compensation insurance, but as an alternative, an employer may file a bond with the Commission to insure payment of claims.

If an employer fails to obtain workers’ compensation insurance or file a bond, it can lose its employer protections under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. If an employee suffers an injury at work during the time an employer is uninsured, and un-bonded, the employee may pursue a remedy against that employer in circuit court. A civil court action against the employer will provide multiple avenues of recovery and may have additional benefits limited under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.

For example, if an employee is injured on the job where the employer does not have insurance or a bond, the worker may be able to sue his employer in court under theories such as negligence of the employer or co-worker with no defense of contributory negligence and without the recovery limitation of the Workers’ Compensation Act.

I Contracted A Disease But Without A Specific Accident On the Job. Can There Be Recovery?

A companion law to the Workers’ Compensation Act is the Occupational Disease Act. The benefits under the Occupational Disease Act are similar to those under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Occupational disease claims can arise when a worker is exposed to chemicals, pollutants or other types of contaminates that result in a disease.

Also, if an employee suffers hearing loss due to exposure to industrial noise over a period of time, as opposed to traumatic injury, the employee will have a claim under the Occupational Disease Act.

To establish an occupational disease claim, a worker must prove he or she suffered from a disease that has been caused or aggravated as a result of exposure from the employment.

Occupational disease claims have arisen from floor refinishers who develop lung problems that are either aggravated or caused by the polyurethane chemicals they use. Similarly, workers who are exposed to diesel exhaust fumes may develop breathing problems and lung disease. Workers exposed to long term job noise resulting in partial or total hearing loss have valid occupational disease claims. Workers exposed to asbestos or silica dust may have both a claim against their employer and, potentially, a claim against the third-party manufacturer that sold the product causing the injury. Various cancers, hypersensitivity to chemicals, and other diseases have been found to be compensable under the Occupational Disease Act.

Readers are encouraged to call or write with questions concerning personal injury law or workers’ compensation.

By: Martin Healy, Jr.

Matthew M. Gannon