What Are Your Rights if You Develop a Work-Related Illness?

In some professions, workers encounter toxic chemicals, diseases, and other threatening agents that may contribute to the development of work-related illnesses. The workers’ compensation insurance systems in some states, while primarily known for covering on-the-job injuries, also allow coverage for occupational diseases.

An occupational disease case is sometimes harder to prove than a bodily injury claim. Therefore, it is a good idea to have an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer helping out with your complaint and managing any disputes you could encounter concerning your benefits.

Types of Work-Related Illnesses and Causes

An occupational disease or work-related illness is a health condition that results from your specific work duties or being exposed to hazardous substances and conditions at work. A variety of harmful things may cause occupational diseases. The most common cause is exposure to toxic chemicals in industries such as mining, firefighting, manufacturing, and other jobs in which workers deal with dangerous chemicals on a daily basis. Mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in particular, is also considered an occupational hazard in some industries.

Some illnesses that are considered to result from occupational hazards include:

  • Mesothelioma
  • Cancers
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Respiratory illness, including asbestosis
  • Black lung disease
  • PTSD
  • Skin conditions
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Bursitis
  • Tendinitis
  • Rotator cuff syndrome

For any of these conditions or other health problems to be viewed as “work-related,” you must show a definitive link to your job. For instance, mesothelioma is a rare kind of cancer directly linked to asbestos exposure. If you can prove you were exposed to asbestos on-the-job, your mesothelioma would be considered an occupational disease.

Filing an Occupational Illness Claim

Work-related illness claims are more complicated than some other workers’ compensation claims. There is typically not one triggering event, like an accident, that leads to an occupational disease. Occupational diseases may not manifest for months, years, or even decades after the initial exposure to a toxic substance. This lack of timely connection can make it challenging to demonstrate a clear link between the job and the illness or disease.

In general, illnesses that were caused by work tend to develop more slowly than on-the-job injuries. They can be more challenging to prove as being work-related. Due to these key differences, the process of filing a workers’ compensation case concerning an illness is different from the process of filing an injury-related lawsuit.

When injured at work, an employee must report the injury to their employer immediately. However, in cases of illness, a worker might not know that they are unwell right away or not make the connection that their work situation caused their illness or disease. The statute of limitations on filing a worker’s comp claim can be adjusted to account for the gradual development of a work-related illness. Sick workers are allowed to begin the claims process once they become aware of their illness and have a legitimate reason to believe their job caused the disease.

Whatever the cause of your work-related illness or disease condition, you’ll need a knowledgeable and experienced workers’ compensation lawyer on your size to help you get the monetary compensation to which you are entitled. Schedule a time to speak with a work injury lawyer in Broward County today.

Thanks to the Law Offices of Franks, Koenig & Neuwelt for their insight into workers compensation and work-related illness.