An occupational disease or an “industrial disease” is an injury, sickness, or medical condition that a worker gets by operating at a specific job or in a particular industry. Generally, many employees from the same job or industry share comparable illness symptoms or injuries or are diagnosed with the same work-related illness. Occupational conditions are frequently a result of working in unsafe working conditions.
Workers’ compensation claims and personal injury lawsuits are often filed due to a worker suffering from an occupational disease. Work-related disease laws and occupational exposure laws exist to safeguard employees.
Regardless of their line of work, every employee has a right to a safe working environment. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration may help workers comprehend their legal rights and prospects better if they believe they might have an occupational disease.
Just catching a cold at the office is not an occupational disease; it has to be driven by work activities or distinct environmental conditions in the workplace. Some standard kinds of occupational diseases include:
- Respiratory infections caused by breathing in chemicals used in your workplace.
- Dermatitis and other skin conditions caused by toxic exposure.
- Repetitive strain injuries (RSI) caused by repetitive actions, ergonomically uncomfortable positions, and high work demands.
- Hearing loss caused by high noise exposure in industries such as construction.
- Cancer conceived due to exposure to carcinogens typical in your industry.
- Infectious diseases, if you work in a setting such as a hospital, where the risk of exposure to infection is high.
- Mental health conditions, most notably post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in high-pressure workplaces that expose employees to trauma.
As far as the workers’ compensation system is concerned, occupational conditions are compensable injuries that happen over time, instead of work accidents (like a broken leg or traumatic brain injury) that occur at a single moment in time.
What Are Instances of an Occupational Disease?
There are many different kinds of occupational illnesses. Work-related conditions are most common in jobs demanding repetitive activities or working environments with inadequate air quality, dangerous chemicals, or poor lighting. Occupational diseases may also result from long-term exposure to digital technology screens.
Industries typically associated with occupational diseases in employees may include mining, manufactory assembly plants, animal slaughterhouses, textile plants, hairdressing, and nail salons.
Some standard forms of occupational diseases may include:
- Lung diseases, including emphysema;
- Cancers or illnesses caused by chemicals like asbestos;
- Muscle strain, arthritis, and joint injuries from repetitive motions;
- Vision and hearing impairment;
- Skin conditions including eczema, burns, and blistering caused by contact with chemicals, electricity, or machinery;
- Back and spine injuries from heavy lifting;
- Breathing difficulties like occupational asthma caused by inadequate air quality;
- Loss of limbs; and
- Head injuries, neck injuries, limb injuries, and various other injuries or medical conditions.
Some occupational conditions may be more intense in some workers when compared to a colleague. A worker might not know that they have an occupational disease right away. Some forms of work-related illnesses may not be found until months or years after a worker has retired or left a job.
How Do I Know If I Have an Occupational Disease?
For a disease, injury, or illness to be deemed an occupational disease, the medical condition must have been directly caused by working in the employee’s job or industry. Suppose the medical condition existed before a worker started working in a specific industry, or the injury or illness mostly occurred outside of work. In that case, it may not be an occupational disease.
The expert opinion of a medical physician or employment attorney can help you distinguish if your medical condition qualifies as an occupational disease.
How Does an Occupational Disease Affect the Timing of Workers’ Compensation?
A pivotal point in any workers’ compensation lawsuit is the date of the injury. For example, injured employees have a detailed window of time (which differs from state to state) to inform their employer of an injury for that injury to be compensable. That window begins on the date of the injury.
This is straightforward for injuries that occur at a specific moment, but it’s harder to pin down a particular date when the injury happened for occupational diseases. Usually, for workers’ compensation pursuits, the date of the injury is the date you were diagnosed with the disease or informed that the disease was work-related. As with all workers’ compensation lawsuits, the best approach is to inform your employer right away – and do so in writing, so there’s a record of the notice.
What Are Some Concerns When Filing for Occupational Disease Damages?
If you have an occupational disease, it may be feasible to file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer for your damages in court. You may also be able to file a workers’ compensation claim against your employer. Before filing a lawsuit or a claim, it’s essential to comprehend the differences between a personal injury lawsuit and a workers’ compensation claim.
Many factors determine if your occupational disease damages should be addressed through a personal injury lawsuit or a worker’s compensation claim. These elements may differ based on the exact injuries you suffered at work, the industry you work in, and the kind of employer you work for.
Another thing to consider is the amount of damages in the court award you request. Some workers with occupational diseases may demand damages for medical bills or loss of income. Some states may limit the amount of money that you may recover from your employer. Recovery limits may apply to your specific request damages for your pain, suffering, and emotional injuries that your occupational disease may have caused.
Do the Laws Regarding Occupational Diseases Vary from State to State?
The fundamental principle that you can get workers’ comp for an injury over time is valid in every state. Still, the components vary widely—for instance, the laws supposing that specific injuries are work-related differ from state to state. States also have substantially distinct regulations regarding work-related mental illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and conditions where an occupational disease exacerbates a pre-existing condition.
An experienced lawyer will know your rights and what proof needs to be brought to safeguard those rights. Don’t leave yourself at the mercy of the workers’ comp insurance company. Know your rights and get legal help.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Occupational Disease Laws?
To file a lawsuit or claim against your employer for damages from an occupational disease, you must decide if you have an occupational disease and if the occupational disease is a natural outcome of your job.
There are many complicated steps and court filings involved in this legal matter. You also need to decide if it’s best to file a personal injury lawsuit or a workers’ compensation claim against your employer, when to file the claim or suit, and how much in damages you should request.
You might be successful in your case against an employer for a work-related illness without a lawyer, but much research is involved, and there are many elaborate steps and deadlines. For the best result, you should work with a workers’ compensation lawyer to help you succeed in your case.