Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker recently signed into law a piece of legislation that would give workers who were exposed to deadly asbestos fibers the legal right to file civil lawsuits in court even after the workers’ compensation periods to file claims has expired. Until now, workers in Illinois had 25 years from the period of exposure to file claims for latent injuries with their employer’s workers’ compensation carrier, but the new law will give victims whose diseases do not present symptoms until after that period the chance to seek damages.
The legislation, originally introduced in the state senate under SB 1596, passed the General Assembly in a relatively short amount of time and went to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jay Hoffman, said the bill would allow workers diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of lung cancer often caused by exposure to asbestos, a way to be compensated if symptoms do not present themselves until after the statute of limitations to file claims has expired.
However, despite the good intentions of the law to help the worker, pro-business and insurance lobbies will likely challenge the legislation claiming companies would be in a state of perpetual liability since workers now have the right to bring injury claims in civil court. Traditionally, injured workers must bring their claims through their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier or their state’s administrative system for dealing with denied claims.