A work-related injury is caused by a person’s work tasks, or results from the performance of their described job duties. Work injuries can refer to both injuries that occur over a long period of time, and injuries resulting from one incident
Some of the most common examples of work related injuries include:
- Occupational diseases, such as those resulting from exposure to toxic materials;
- Repetitive stress injuries;
- Occupational stress and injury, which are further discussed below;
- Respiratory illnesses; and
- Lower back injuries, such as those resulting from heavy lifting or straining.
Additionally, there are some work-related injuries that may involve psychological and/or emotional injury. An example of this would be occupational stress, which will be further discussed below. However, it is important to note that the injured party is more likely to succeed in making a claim if they also have physical manifestations of injury that were caused by the psychological factors.
What Is An Occupational Injury? Is An Occupational Injury Different From Occupational Stress?
An occupational injury is a specific type of work-related injury, closely associated with the employee’s particular line of work. An example of this would be how asbestosis is a specific condition that is caused by exposure to asbestos, which is associated with specific lines of work, such as construction.
Occupational injuries can be distinguished from random injuries that occur while the employee is simply on the work premises, such as a slip and fall case. To further clarify the difference, occupational injuries are generally identified by factors such as:
- The injury was directly related to the employee’s assigned work tasks;
- The injury caused the employee to miss at least one day of work;
- The employee was performing this task according to the instructions or directions provided to them by their employer; and
- The injury is generally associated with the line of work that the employee is in.
Some common examples of occupational injuries include:
Occupational stress can be considered as a type of occupational disease, which is further discussed below. This is a condition in which the person may experience a heightened level of anxiety and mental fatigue, among other symptoms. It is considered to be occupational due to the fact that certain professions and jobs involve conditions that create more stress than compared to other professions and jobs.
Additionally, specific events or incidents at the workplace can “trigger” occupational stress. Examples include, but may not be limited to:
- Dangerous working conditions;
- Incidents of discrimination; and
- Indecent or improper workplace atmospheres.
Some of the different factors which can cause occupational stress include:
- Working too many hours in a day, week, or month;
- Performing work that you are not sufficiently trained for;
- Exposure to highly emotional or psychologically challenging issues;
- Facing penalties or being threatened with termination;
- Loss of wages, pay cuts, or losing benefits; and
- Experiencing unfairness, illegal conduct, and/or unethical acts in the workplace.
While some employers fail to recognize occupational stress as an actual condition or industrial disease, occupational stress can cause severe physical symptoms as well. These can include:
- Upset stomach;
- Dizziness; and
- Panic and/or anxiety-like symptoms.
What Is An Occupational Disease?
An occupational disease is an injury, illness, or medical condition that a worker gets by working at a specific job or in a particular industry. Generally, a large group of workers from the same job or industry will all share similar illness symptoms or injuries. Or, they will be diagnosed with the same work-related disease. Occupational diseases are generally associated with working in unsafe working conditions.
Work-related disease laws and occupational exposure laws exist to protect workers. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration can help workers better understand their legal rights and options if they have an occupational disease.
Industries that are most commonly associated with occupational diseases in workers include:
- Factory assembly plants;
- Animal slaughterhouses;
- Textile factories; and
- Hairdressing and nail salons.
Some common examples of occupational diseases include:
- Lung diseases, such as emphysema;
- Cancers or illnesses caused by chemicals such as 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, and/or machinery;
- Back and spine injuries from heavy lifting;
- Breathing problems such as occupational asthma caused by poor air quality;
- Loss of limbs; and
- Head injuries, neck injuries, and limb injuries.
It is important to note that some occupational diseases may be more severe in some workers when compared to a coworker. Additionally, a worker may not know that they have an occupational disease right away. An example of this would be how some forms of work-related diseases may not be discovered until months or years after a worker has retired or left their job.
How Are Occupational Injuries Remedied?
Generally speaking, work-related injuries are remedied either through an insurance claim or through worker’s compensation mechanisms. Additionally, many companies will specifically address work-related injuries in the employment contract that is created between the employer and employee during the initial hiring phase.
However, if these remedies do not sufficiently address the issue, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit. Such a lawsuit could result in a damages award that can help the plaintiff to recover various losses, including:
- Medical bills;
- Hospital costs;
- Costs associated with rehabilitation;
- Lost wages; and/or
- Loss of a job position.
In terms of occupational injuries specifically, the affected employee is generally required to take time off of work in order to recover from their injuries. This could involve filing a workers compensation claim, or a disability insurance claim. In cases involving a dispute over liability, a lawsuit may be necessary.
Occupational stress can sometimes relate to various other claims. An example of this would be how occupational stress frequently involves factors of emotional distress or pain and suffering, so that undergoing a traumatic experience at work can result in occupational stress.
Because occupational stress can sometimes be difficult to define in a legal context, the damages award may be specifically categorized as a distress or pain and suffering award. To reiterate, cases which involve actual physical symptoms are generally more likely to be successful than cases that do not involve physical symptoms.
As was previously mentioned, occupational stress can sometimes be associated with illegal conduct in the workplace, especially in cases involving harassment. Intimidation and threats in the workplace from a peer or superior can create occupational stress; as such, when filing a claim, it is important to be thorough and to keep a solid account of all of the factors that may be involved in your claim.
Do I Need An Attorney For A Claim Involving Occupational Injury?
If you are experiencing issues associated with an occupational injury and need to pursue a lawsuit, you should consult with an experienced and local worker’s compensation lawyer.
An attorney will be best suited to representing you according to your state’s specific employment and workplace safety laws. Finally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.