An occupational disease or an “industrial disease” is an injury, illness or medical condition that a worker gets by working at specific job or in a particular industry. Typically, a large group workers from the same job or industry will all share similar illness symptoms or injuries or will be diagnosed with the same work-related disease. Occupational diseases are often a result of working in unsafe working conditions.

Workers’ compensation claims and personal injury lawsuits are often filed as a result of a worker suffering from an occupational disease. Work-related disease laws and occupational exposure laws exist to protect workers.

Regardless of their line of work, every worker has a right to a safe working environment. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration may help workers to better understand their legal rights and options if they think they might have an occupational disease.

What are Examples of an Occupational Disease?

There are many different types of occupational diseases. Work-related diseases are most common in jobs that require repetitive movements or in working environments that have poor air quality, hazardous chemicals or bad lighting. Occupational diseases may also result from long-term exposure to digital technology screens.

Industries that are commonly associated with occupational diseases in workers may include mining, factory assembly plants, animal slaughterhouses, textile factories, hairdressing and nail salons.

Some common forms of an 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 problems like occupational asthma caused by poor air quality;
  • Loss of limbs; and
  • Head injuries, neck injuries, limb injuries, and various other injuries or medical conditions.

Some occupational diseases may be more severe in some workers when compared to a coworker. A worker might not know that they have an occupation disease right away. Some forms of work-related diseases may not be discovered until months or years after a worker has retired or left a job.

How Do I Know if I Have an Occupational Disease?

In order for a disease, injury or illness to be considered an occupational disease, the medical condition must have been directly caused by working in the worker’s job or industry. If the medical condition existed before a worker started working in a particular industry or if the injury or illness mostly occurred outside of work, it may not be an occupational disease.

The expert opinion of a medical doctor or employment lawyer can help you determine if your medical condition qualifies as an occupational disease.   

What are Some Considerations When Filing for Occupational Disease Damages?

If you have a occupational disease, it may be possible 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 important to understand the differences between a personal injury lawsuit and a workers’ compensation claim.

There are many factors that determine if your occupational disease damages should be handled through a personal injury lawsuit or as a worker’s compensation claim. These factors may vary based on the specific injuries that you suffered at work, the industry that you work in, and the type of employer that you work for.

Another thing to consider is the amount of damages that you request be awarded by the court. Some workers with occupational diseases may request damages for medical bills or loss of income. Some states may place a limit on the amount of money that you may recover from your employer. Recovery limits may apply to your specific request damages from your pain, suffering and emotional injuries that may have been caused by your occupational disease.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Occupational Disease Laws?

In order to file a lawsuit or claim against your employer for damages from an occupational disease, you must determine if you have an occupational disease and if the occupational disease is a direct result of your job.

There are many complex steps and court filings involved in this type of legal matter. You also need to determine 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 the help of a lawyer, but much research is involved and there are many complex steps and deadlines. For the best outcome, you should work with an employment lawyer to help you succeed in your case.