Can Occupational Diseases Be the Basis of Workers’ Compensation Claims?
Occupational diseases can be severely debilitating and may affect not just your career, but also your long-term health.
Diseases contracted in a particular work environment or through work-related activities may be compensable under workers’ compensation laws. In this article, we’ll define occupational diseases, discuss those commonly seen in Pennsylvania and give advice on starting your claim.
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What Is an Occupational Disease?
Occupational disease is defined by the workers’ compensation law as an ailment or illness contracted in a particular occupation or workplace environment.
An occupational disease may not present itself until years after the first exposure (or continuous exposure) to harmful chemicals during work-related activities. They can also be contracted through repetitive motion or other harmful practices. These illnesses and ailments often cause long-term problems.
Employees who have contracted an occupational illness due to exposure at work or have been injured while working may file for a workers’ compensation claim.
Occupational Diseases & Workers’ Comp
A workers’ compensation system, sometimes referred to as “workers’ comp”, is a state-mandated program that requires employers by law to compensate employees who get injured on the job.
To receive occupational disease workers’ comp, workers need to provide medical evidence proving that the occupational injury or illness is a result of their type of work or workplace environment.
Under the workers’ compensation law, some ordinary diseases of life may also be compensable if specific criteria are met. In these cases, workers need to present convincing medical evidence that the illness was due to workplace exposure.
For deaths related to an occupational disease, the filing must be done by the spouse or dependents starting from the date of the worker’s death.
A wide range of regulations has been put in place by the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to increase workplace safety and reduce work-related injuries or illnesses.
Occupational Diseases in Pennsylvania
There is a wide range of occupational diseases, depending on your occupation and industry.
Some of them include:
- Asbestosis (lung disease caused by inhalation of asbestos particles)
- Black lung disease (coal workers’ pneumoconiosis)
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Repetitive motion diseases leading to carpal tunnel syndrome
- Hearing loss
- Heart disease
- Latex allergies
- Mesothelioma (cancer caused by asbestos exposure)
- Silicosis (respiratory disease due to inhalation of dust containing silica)
Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, state workers must report their medical condition or workplace injury to their employers within 120 days. Workers’ compensation claims must be filed within three years of the injury.
The time limit begins from the date of the injury. If the injured worker fails to inform the employer within this deadline, the worker may be ineligible for valuable compensation rights.
There are special circumstances that warrant an exception to the 120-day rule, such as when certain injuries are not immediately noticed. Work-related conditions that develop over time, including hearing loss and repetitive motion injuries, are also exempted.
Is COVID-19 an Occupational Disease?
In Pennsylvania, the government has submitted house bills to recognize COVID-19 as an occupational disease.
Pennsylvania legislators are currently seeking a third category for coronavirus (COVID-19) injuries, granting a presumption to certain employees who have frequent contact with the general public. If this law is passed, it would be effective immediately.
Following the Workers’ Compensation Act, injured workers or workers with an established presumption of hazardous work environment are qualified for workers’ compensation benefits to cover medical treatment.
File Your Occupational Disease Claims
If you incur a job injury, believe you have an occupational disease or suffer from one that is making a pre-existing condition worse, we can help you file for an occupational disease claim.
We can also advocate for your full recovery if you have been denied workers’ compensation benefits for your work-related injury or had your benefits reduced or altered.
The law firm of Krasno Krasno & Onwudinjo believes in protecting the rights and interests of injured workers in all occupational fields in Pennsylvania.
Beyond an attorney-client relationship, we understand and care about your situation.
Let Krasno Krasno & Onwudinjo help fight for your claim. We guarantee that we will only charge attorney’s fees when we win your case. Call us at 844-243-4841 or start a live chat to schedule a free case review.