One thing is certain when an economic crisis hits – jobs become scarce and people become desperate for work. This was especially true during the Great Depression, when unemployment in the United States averaged 25%. As the need for jobs increased, not only were more workers willing to take riskier employment, fewer employers were making the effort to ensure worker safety. Few events highlight this more than the Hawks Nest Tunnel disaster where hundreds of workers died or were sickened by exposure to silica dust. This tragedy not only raised awareness of silicosis, a dangerous occupational disease, but helped to improve safety standards and working conditions for all workers today.
When a worker files a workers’ compensation claim, a major hurdle can be proving that the injury or illness was caused by or at work. Too frequently, the employer and/or insurance provider may try every means possible to deny responsibility. One tactic is to deny a claim by stating that the injury or illness is due to some factor other than those at work. But a recent ruling by the Illinois Appellate Court may help workers whose claims are wrongly denied on the inflated basis of preexisting or mitigating factors.