Most people know that you can seek workers’ compensation benefits if you are in an accident at work in Pennsylvania. What people may not realize: These benefits are also available if you suffer an illness related to your job. This is called an “occupational disease.”
An occupational disease claim can sometimes be harder to prove than a bodily injury claim. This is why it is a good idea to have an experienced PA workers’ compensation lawyer helping out with your claim and with any disputes you might encounter concerning your benefits.
Shor & Levin, P.C., provides free consultations to workers seeking illness-related workers’ compensation benefits. Contact us today and get immediate help.
What is a Work-Related Illness?
A work-related illness or occupational disease is a health condition that results from your work duties or exposure to hazardous conditions or substances at work. Examples of work-related illnesses include:
- Carpel tunnel syndrome
- Rotator cuff syndrome
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Respiratory illness
- Black lung disease
- Cancer, including mesothelioma / asbestosis.
For any of these particular conditions or other health problems to be considered “work-related,” you must show a link to your job. For example, mesothelioma is a rare kind of cancer that is directly linked to asbestos exposure. If you can show you were exposed to asbestos at work, your mesothelioma would be treated as an occupational disease.
PA Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Disease
Workers’ compensation laws in PA say that if a worker experiences an injury or illness because of his or her job, the worker gets benefits even if an employer didn’t break any safety rules. All a worker should have to do is report the injury to the employer, who then makes a claim with the insurance company that issued the workers’ compensation policy.
However, with work-related illness, it gets more complicated. Unlike an accident, there is usually not one triggering event that leads to an occupational disease. The disease may not develop for months, years or even decades after exposure to a toxic substance. This makes it challenging to show a clear link between the job and the illness or injury.
An experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation lawyer can assist in obtaining necessary evidence, including:
- Studies and data showing a high rate of injury or illness among workers’ in the same field or at the same workplace
- A formal diagnosis from the medical doctor who diagnosed and treated you
- Expert testimony from specialists or professionals with knowledge of disease or repetitive stress conditions who can testify as to the cause of the injury
- Test results and lab findings from medical testing
- Treatment records from medical assistance given to you because of your injuries.
You don’t have to prove an employer did anything wrong or was negligent or careless in a way that caused your occupational disease. As long as you can link your work-related illness to your required job tasks, you should be entitled to workers’ compensation.
Injury Lawsuits and Workplace Illness
Workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania should pay for your medical bills and a portion of your lost wages. However, you cannot be paid for pain and suffering or other non-financial damages that your illness or injury may have caused you.
A personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, on the other hand, allows compensation for the ill worker or surviving family members. If someone besides your employer or a co-worker was to blame for your illness, you could pursue such a claim. For example, in many asbestos cases, those who breathed in the dangerous silicate fibers may sue the manufacturer of the asbestos products.
This is a different and separate legal action from a workers’ comp claim. However, a PA workers’ compensation lawyer at Shor & Levin can help with your lawsuit as well as with your workers’ compensation claim.
Call Shor & Levin today and let us put our legal knowledge to work for you.
For More Information
- Occupational Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention