Occupational Disease and Illness
An occupational disease, also sometimes called an occupational illness, is one that develops over time from exposure to an irritant or toxin in the workplace. Not every worker reacts in the same way to the same harmful substances, and it may take months or years for an occupational disease to become apparent in affected workers.
Some workers develop an occupational illness because of the repetitive work they do every day as part of their jobs. For example, medical professionals and office workers can develop carpal tunnel syndrome as a direct result of their occupations.
Common Causes of Occupational Diseases
Examples of irritants that can lead to occupational diseases include pesticides; mold; dust from mining or industrial work; fibers from carpeting or textiles; fumes from paint, welding, or diesel fuel; and asbestos fibers in insulation, tiles, or drywall.
These and other toxins can cause occupational diseases such as:
- Bronchiolitis obliterans or popcorn lung – from exposure to the flavorings used in microwave popcorn plants
- Byssinosis or brown lung – this affects many cotton and textile factory workers
- Mesothelioma – a deadly form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure
- Pneumoconiosis or black lung – an illness commonly seen in coal miners
Additional occupational illnesses may include:
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Hearing loss from chronic exposure to high levels of industrial noise
- Heart attacks
- Repetitive motion injuries
Filing a Claim for an Occupational Disease
In New Jersey, workers’ compensation law allows an employee two years from the date the illness was discovered to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. However, the burden of proof is strict, and it is up to the employee to prove that the illness is related to their employment.
There are four kinds of proof that are necessary for a successful claim for occupational illness:
- It must be shown that the illness or disease occurred during the course of the employee’s work
- The illness must have developed out of this work
- The cause of the illness is related to or characteristic of the employee’s occupation, trade, or work environment
- The employee’s work contributed substantially to the illness
If you believe you have an occupational disease or illness, it is important to notify your employer immediately and seek medical care. You should have the medical provider note that you believe your illness is work-related. Hopefully, your employer will authorize treatment for your illness, but it is possible they will refuse.
In that case you must seek treatment on your own after notifying your employer and their workers’ compensation insurance carrier that you intend to do so.
Occupational disease and illness claims are complex and sometimes difficult to prove, so seeking the help of a reputable and experienced South Jersey workers’ compensation lawyer at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks LLP is highly recommended to get you the compensation you are due.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits
A successful workers’ compensation claim for occupational disease or illness can result in the employee receiving some or all of the following benefits:
- Wage loss benefits
- Medical benefits, including hospital care, medications, prosthetics, and orthopedic appliances
- Temporary disability benefits
- Permanent partial disability benefits or permanent total disability benefits
- Death benefits for surviving dependents when a disease is fatal
Occupational diseases and illnesses can severely affect an employee’s ability to continue a career or earn at the same level, resulting in devastating effects for workers and their families.
In some cases, the work-related illness may even be fatal. Having a skilled South Jersey workers’ compensation lawyer on your side, who knows the intricacies of the system, can make all the difference in the success of your claim.
South Jersey Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks LLP Fight for Workers Suffering from Occupational Illnesses
If you are suffering from an illness or disease that developed due to your occupation, you may be eligible for compensation. Consult with the experienced South Jersey workers’ compensation lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks LLP about your case. We will fight to get you and your family the maximum compensation available to you. Call 856-761-3773 to schedule a free consultation or contact us online. Located in Cherry Hill, we advocate for injured workers in the City of Camden, South Jersey, and across the state of New Jersey.