Each year in the United States, many workers are impacted by occupational illnesses. These diseases can develop over time, and many workers do not know they have an illness until months or even years later. Occupational illnesses can lead to physical injuries, internal injuries, and even cause psychological problems.
In most instances, workers do not know they are developing these issues until the illness has already progressed. Employers have an obligation to make sure their workers are in a safe and clean environment. Practicing safety is important for both the worker and employee, but even following all the safety precautions will not prevent all problems from occurring.
If you contract an illness at work because of the conditions of your job, you are likely eligible to collect Workers’ Compensation benefits, which will help cover your expenses while you are recovering. If you are having trouble receiving benefits, a Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation lawyer can help you with your situation.
What Is an Occupational Illness?
While many workers know they can file a claim for Workers’ Compensation benefits when they suffer a workplace injury, they should also be aware that there are benefits available for occupational illnesses. Many workers are routinely exposed to irritants that can cause an illness over time, however, an occupational illness can also result from a one-time exposure to a toxic substance. Other workplace factors related to occupational illnesses are noise, vibration, and extreme temperatures.
Many workers suffer from occupational illnesses every year in the United States, however, there are certain ones that are more common.
Occupational Lung Diseases
When you work in an old building, particularly one that contains chemicals such as asbestos, you can contract certain respiratory diseases, including asbestosis, byssinosis, silicosis, coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, lung cancer, and occupational asthma.
There are some cancers that workers can develop outside, including lung cancer. Some cancers are caused by exposure to toxic elements, such as synthetic chemicals. Managers are responsible for taking care of their workers, including reducing exposure to these dangerous chemicals.
Carbon monoxide exposure, chemical exposure, and workplace stress can all lead to cardiovascular disease, which can also occur at certain work locations.
Certain work conditions from chemical exposure to strenuous activity can lead to reproductive injuries, including birth defects and infertility issues.
Working in certain facilities might expose a worker to certain dangerous neurotoxins that can lead to hallucinations or cognitive dysfunction, such as reduced attention span, reduced alertness, and memory loss.
Noise-Induced Loss of Hearing
Working near loud machines or other loud noises on an ongoing basis can have an adverse impact on your hearing. If you do not properly protect your ears with ear plugs or protective helmets, you could suffer permanent hearing loss.
Skin diseases may not appear as if they are a major concern, but many do occur because of lacerations or punctures. A person can also sustain a skin disease from exposure to a toxin, such as a chemical.
People suffer numerous work-related psychological injuries, including depression, headaches, nausea, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. These must all be addressed. Managers and supervisors have a legal obligation to ensure the safety of their workers and make sure there are no health risks at work. In addition, they should monitor their employees to watch for signs of an injury or occupational illness.
Who Is at Risk for Developing an Occupational Illness?
An unhealthy work environment does not necessarily impact all workers equally. Some workers are more susceptible to certain injuries and illnesses over others. Those who are most vulnerable to occupational illnesses include:
- Miners who can develop black lung from inhaling coal dust.
- Cotton and textile workers who commonly suffer from brown lung.
- Office workers can develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Construction workers can develop mesothelioma or other lung diseases, such as asbestosis.
- Health care workers who encounter biological hazards can contract diseases.
- Welders who inhale the toxic fumes from welding materials.
When you have been injured at work or you believe you have contracted an occupational disease because of work conditions, you can speak with a Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation lawyer who can advise you on your best legal options.
Can I Still File a Workers’ Compensation Claim for an Occupational Illness?
Most people associate a Workers’ Compensation claim with an injury that is suffered due to a workplace accident, however, Workers’ Compensation covers injuries and illnesses that workers suffer from due to job-related tasks. While you are legally permitted to file a claim for your illness, it is more difficult to prove an illness is work-related.
When claiming Workers’ Compensation benefits for an occupational illness, the burden of proof falls on the claimant. This means you will have to show a direct relationship between your illness and your workplace environment. The cause of your illness must be specific to your trade, occupation, or place of employment and that your occupation was a major factor in the development of your illness.
An example would be a person who is diagnosed with an illness after they worked in an environment for years that contained toxic materials. You are not required to use a lawyer to file a claim, but working with an experienced Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation lawyer could make a substantial difference in the outcome of your claim.
A lawyer will help ensure that your claim meets the criteria mandated by state law and is filed within the required timelines. Claimants who do not meet the deadlines are excluded from receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits.
How Can I Determine When I Contracted My Occupational Illness?
Developing a proper timeline on when you contracted your illness can be one of the more difficult aspects of this claim. It will be up to you to prove the connection. The first complication is any potential delay in the onset of a disease. You might contract something, but it will not manifest until months or years later.
In that timeframe, you may no longer be working for the same company or working in a different capacity. Another problem is that you must submit your Workers’ Compensation claim in a timely manner, which can be difficult if it has been years or months since you contracted the illness. Fortunately, New Jersey does offer a certain amount of flexibility for occupational illnesses.
The biggest problem has to do with providing evidence to tie your illness to whatever condition occurred at work that led to your diagnosis. Obtaining information and data from your doctor and the laboratory can help make this link. Your Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation lawyer will be able to use this information to help establish an connection of your job and your illnesses.
What Benefits Can I Receive?
Workers’ Compensation is a no-fault insurance system that compensates injured or ill workers for certain economic expenses. Most companies in New Jersey are required to carry Workers’ Compensation insurance, and most full-time employees are eligible to collect benefits if they are injured on the job.
Workers’ Compensation insurance is no-fault, meaning negligence does not need to play a role in order to be eligible for benefits. However, proving an illness can be more difficult than an injury, but a worker who does become sick or sustains a long-term injury due to circumstances at their job are still eligible to collect these benefits.
Workers’ Compensation will reimburse injured workers for several economic expenses, including the following:
- Medical benefits: Workers’ Compensation covers all medical treatment that is necessary and reasonable due to an occupational illness. These include doctor visits, prescriptions, physical therapy, and other various medical necessities. You may be required to visit a doctor of your employer’s choosing. Failure to do so could disqualify you from obtaining these benefits.
- Death benefits: When a person dies due to an event that took place at work, Workers’ Compensation will provide the worker’s dependents with death benefits. Death benefits will be divided by the dependents of the deceased worker. Dependents include the spouse and children who are members of the worker’s household.
- Funeral expenses: Along with the specific benefits related to a death, the benefits will also cover a certain percentage of the funeral expenses for a person who was killed at work.
While you are recovering from your injuries, you may be forced to miss work for extended periods of time. While you are away, you will not be able to collect your salary, but Workers’ Compensation will reimburse a portion of your lost wages. However, what you receive and for how long will depend on the severity of your injury. These benefits include:
- Temporary disability benefits: Employees unable to work for more than seven days are eligible for these benefits. The total amount the worker can receive will be about 70 percent of their average weekly wage, up to a maximum of 75 percent of the statewide average weekly wage (SAWW), but no lower than 20 percent of the SAWW. The state routinely changes the SAWW, so the amount you will receive could vary year to year.
- Permanent partial disability benefits: If your injury or illness is so severe that it results in a permanent disability and your temporary disability has lapsed, you are eligible for these benefits. The extent of the impairment will impact the amount you will receive. A doctor will examine you and will assign what is called a “disability rating.” This is based on how much the impairment affects the worker and their ability to do their job.
- Permanent total disability benefits: This is the highest level of Workers’ Compensation you can receive. You will be eligible for these benefits if you are permanently disabled because of your injury or illness. You will receive your benefits for up to 450 weeks. If you are still unable to return to work after that period, you may be eligible to continue to receive the benefits moving forward. If your injury or illness resulted in detrimental bodily damage, you will automatically be considered permanently disabled.
It is important to remember that you have two years to file a Workers’ Compensation claim. Traditionally, this time starts when an accident occurred, but it is different when you are filing for an occupational illness.
For an occupational illness, the timeframe begins on the date you are diagnosed or on the day that you should have reasonably realized that work caused your illness. Having a Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation lawyer on your side will help ensure that you file your claim on time.
Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at DiTomaso Law Will Protect Your Rights if You Have Been Diagnosed With an Occupational Illness
If you have contracted an illness due to your work conditions, it can be difficult to find a correlation between the two. Our Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation lawyers at DiTomaso Law will help you make that connection. Call us at 856-414-0010 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today. We are conveniently located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Mt. Holly, Camden County, and Vineland.