When most Americans think of being poisoned, they imagine either a nefarious act where the poison is hidden in something that the victim consumes or someone, like a child, who accidentally picks up the wrong product and swallows it. While both of these scenarios are absolutely possible, the fact is that a large portion of the workplace injury and illness cases seen today are occupational poisonings.
A Look Into Workplace Toxins
There are three ways in which an employee may become poisoned:
- Ingestion: This is when a toxic substance is taken orally, either through eating or drinking.
- Inhalation: Toxins aren’t just solids – smokes and gasses that are inhaled into the respiratory system can result in poisoning.
- Absorption: Although our skin is designed to protect us, some chemicals can be absorbed directly into the bloodstream if touched.
Common Toxins Found On The Job
All industries use chemicals at some point. The most frequently used chemicals that cause occupational poisoning include:
- Carbon Monoxide
- Carbon Dioxide
Each of these and the hundreds of other toxins that could potentially cause harm, has a threshold level. This means that there is only so much of the toxin that a worker can be exposed to before they begin to suffer physical side effects.
The symptoms of occupational as are varied as the different types of toxins, but common signs include:
- dry mouth
- abdominal pain
- changes in behavior – acute mania
- loss of consciousness
- organ failure
- respiratory arrest
Long term exposure can also cause cancer, anemia, lung diseases, and depigmentation of the skin.
Workers who believe that they may have been exposed to a workplace toxin and poisoned should not hesitate to seek medical attention immediately.
Who Will Pay For The Medical Treatments?
The medical treatments and hospitalization that is necessary to heal a worker who has been poisoned are typically not inexpensive. In the blink of an eye, a person can find themselves not only suffering physically but financially. It is for this very reason that over a hundred years ago, workers’ compensation was created.
Whenever an employee becomes ill or injured because of an exposure on their job, they have the right to file a claim with their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier. Pennsylvania law requires that most employers obtain coverage so that their employees won’t suffer financially after being harmed at work.
Once a claim has been filed, the insurance company should provide the worker with payments for the medical treatments directly related to the poisoning and at least a fraction of their lost wages, unfortunately, obtaining those payments isn’t always easy and in many cases, the worker finds that they need to consult with a workers’ comp attorney.
Why Do I Need An Attorney?
From the very beginning, the odds are often stacked against the injured employee. One small mistake on a claim form can result in either the outright denial of a claim or a severe reduction in the benefits that are paid out.
By working with an attorney, you can be sure that your claim forms are filled out correctly from the beginning, have someone to handle communication with the insurance company on your behalf, and to investigate further into your case to determine if other forms of compensation are available.
In the event that your employer contests your claim or the case needs to be appealed, an attorney can also guide you through the process of fighting for your rights, contact and obtain medical and scientific experts to back up your case, and represent you in court.
Other Forms Of Compensation
In the majority of all cases, research into how the toxin was taken into the body reveals that third-party’s negligence lead to the poisoning. As a result, in addition to filing for workers’ compensation, a worker may also be eligible for a personal injury lawsuit.
By filing a lawsuit, additional compensation may be gained, providing coverage for all lost income, the physical pain and suffering experienced by the plaintiff, and the emotional trauma they sustained.
Can’t I Sue My Employer?
No. When an employer provides workers’ compensation insurance their employees are barred from filing a personal injury lawsuit against them. However, since the insurnace is required by law, if they fail to obtain coverage, they then may find themselves named the defendant in a lawsuit.
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