In a September 12th press conference, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that they expect 2012 to become the worst year on record for West Nile virus cases in the United States. Though we have not yet topped 2002’s record-setting number of 3000 severe cases and 284 deaths, the current pace of cases being reported is so rapid that 2012 is expected to easily eclipse this record by year’s end. As discussed in a previous article, the West Nile virus, which is generally spread by mosquitos, causes symptoms ranging from flu-like symptoms to permanent damage and even death. At particular risk of contracting the virus are workers whose jobs require them to spend more time outdoors, such as construction workers, landscapers and utility workers. Recently, a lawsuit by a railroad worker against his employer highlighted not just the devastation West Nile can reap, but the responsibility employers have to ensure the safety of their employees against the virus.
In 2008, railroad worker Billy Nami reported that he contracted the West Nile virus while doing work for his employer, Union Pacific Railroad. According to his lawyer, Nami was infected after being sent to work in a swampy area along the coast of Texas which had been deluged by rains following Hurricane Ike. After contracting the virus, Nami’s symptoms rapidly escalated until he was hospitalized with convulsions and fever from the resulting encephalitis. Though he survived, the disease left permanent damage. In his suit, Nami argued that his employer was liable for his injury, as he was neither informed about the danger of West Nile in the area, nor was provided with any protection or repellant from mosquitos. A jury agreed, finding Union Pacific Railroad 80% liable and awarding Nami $980, 000 for his injuries.
As a railroad worker, Nami’s situation was slightly different. While many workers receive coverage for injury and illness on the job by workers’ compensation insurance, Nami’s injuries fell under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA). Unlike workers’ compensation no-fault system, workers under FEMA must show negligence on the part of the employer in pursuing damages for their injuries. However, they are also allowed to pursue damages in court farther reaching than the payments allowed under workers’ compensation. However, the two are similar in that the West Nile virus has repeatedly been found by courts and commissions to be an eligible work-related illness.
As experts in workplace injury and illness, the Law Offices of Millon and Peskin find that too often workers who become sickened on the job with such illnesses have been misinformed and mislead. Not only are they not educated about the risks which are present, they are not given adequate protection from contracting such diseases. Sadly, workers who become sick sometimes never draw the correlation between their illness and their jobs. Because of this, they never receive the workers’ compensation benefits which are vital to helping them heal. At Millon and Peskin, we help our clients find the root of the problem for their injuries and illnesses. We encourage all workers to never discount the possibility that their health problems are work-related. A Chicago workers compensation lawyer can help determine not just your workplace’s role in your health problems, but pursue for you the benefits you deserve and require for recovery.
About the Author: Brooke Haley is a Marketing Associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation attorney that practice in the areas of Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts in the State of Illinois. For more information about Illinois workers compensation lawyer,please visit www.millonpeskin.com.