Workers working around chemicals can bring home a lot of problems to their families. Besides having a heck of a laundry load or dry cleaning bills, such workers can bring home work-related diseases to their loved ones. Although it can happen whenever chemicals or residue is present on a worker, the most common lawsuits have been for those related to asbestos contamination. Most asbestos litigation is from workers exposed to the substance over the course of their careers but there is a sizable minority of cases from the family of workers who have also contracted asbestos-related diseases obtained solely from contact with their loved one. Recently, a New York judge allowed a case to proceed where a wife developed mesothelioma from exposure to her husband’s clothes while she was washing them.
Contracting a disease from this type of exposure is not rare. A paper from The National Institutes of Health (NIH) outlined the main causes for exposure. The first is obviously exposure to contaminated clothing. Next is the surrounding conditions near the homes of miners; and wearing previously exposed clothing. Yes, you hear correctly. Even when previously exposed clothing has been washed, it can still pose a risk not only to the wearer but also the people around them. In the above New York case, the wife was exposed by her husband’s clothing as she did laundry. The NIH wants to study further the continued contamination of such diseases from airborne contaminants onto clothing fibers.
There are many professions where asbestos exposure can be expected. Most of the workers were identified as craftsmen. Other professions that were ripe for exposure include mining, shipyards, oil and gas, and installation. It is important to seek medical attention if you have ever worked in these industries in the past. Although most have gotten rid of asbestos, it doesn’t take a lot of asbestos or a long exposure period to develop related diseases. When an employee is injured in an accident at work they can receive compensation if they file a claim through their state’s workers’ compensation system. Every state has different rules and procedures for filing a claim so it is best to consult an attorney for advice. Generally, employers need to post a notice to employees making them aware of their rights. If an accident occurs, employers should have procedures set in place for employees to report accidents.
Notice in such accidents is critical for an employee’s claim. In Illinois, an employee has 45 days to report an accident to their employer. It can be orally or in writing but it must give the employer reasonable notice of the date of the accident. For most employees, a form can be filled out. Other employees may need to be more proactive in keeping records and documentation of the notice given to their employers. But to establish a claim it will be necessary to prove that notice was given within the requisite time. Even if an employee is not sure of the severity of the injury, it is best to report it as soon as the injury happens. Delaying giving notice may be fatal to an employee’s claim and there is a risk that the claim could be dismissed. An employer may believe that an employee was injured out of work the further an employee delays, for instance. Employees need to take care to follow the protocol of their employers. State laws may be vague as to what kind of notice is required and may dictate the minimum an employer will need to do. Employers may have additional requirements before they move ahead with a workers’ compensation claim. Failure to provide this may delay your benefits.
Note that it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for trying to file a workers’ compensation claim. There are civil penalties for employers that have been proven to engage in such conduct.
Sometimes injuries to employees are not discrete accidents. For example, exposure to toxic chemicals can take years before symptoms develop. These are known as repetitive trauma injuries. In that case, when an employee first learns of the illness and its connection to the workplace is when the employee should provide notice to the employer.
This article is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Do not rely on the above information as all cases are different and different laws apply to different cases. Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance.