According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an occupational illness is any injury or condition that is work-related. If your job or an exposure at work caused or contributed to your diagnosis, you may have an occupational illness. It is also possible to have an occupational illness if your job aggravated a pre-existing condition.
If you were diagnosed with a condition related to your job, you may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, including coverage for your medical care and a portion of your lost income until you can return to work. An attorney from the Morris Bart personal injury law firm may be able to help you pursue these benefits if you run into any concerns.
What Are Some Common Occupational Illnesses?
The possible occupational conditions depend greatly on the industry. Those who work on remodeling older homes or dismantling ships in a shipyard are at a much higher risk of mesothelioma—an occupational cancer caused by asbestos exposure—than someone who works in a grocery store.
It is important to know the potential hazards of your job to reduce your risk. This is something you may want to research or discuss with your employer or a human resources representative. Considering a wide range of industries and jobs, some of the most common occupational illnesses include:
- Skin diseases and disorders, such as rashes and burns that occur because of exposure to caustic chemicals or poisonous plants
- Respiratory conditions, including asbestosis, tuberculosis, and occupational asthma
- Poisoning that occurs through the ingestion or skin absorption of toxic substances
- Heatstroke, frostbite, or other injuries caused by exposure to weather
- Decompression sickness
- Radiation sickness
- Exposure to contagions, including anthrax, HIV, or hepatitis
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hearing damage and loss is the most frequently diagnosed occupational disease across all industries. The risk is widespread, and damage to hearing is very common. Hazardous noise levels affect 30 million workers in the United States, and an additional nine million have regular exposure to ototraumatic agents that can cause hearing loss.
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What Should I Do If I Have an Occupational Illness?
The first thing you need to do is confirm your diagnosis. If possible, see a doctor approved by your employer for testing and diagnosis. If your doctor has already tested you and confirmed what they believe is a work-related illness, you may need to transfer your care to a doctor your workers’ compensation insurer has approved.
Once you have a diagnosis for your condition, notify your employer and determine your next steps in getting workers’ compensation approval. If you will miss work, you should be able to get not only medical care coverage but also income until you can go back to your job.
Understanding Workers’ Compensation Benefits
The workers’ compensation process and who qualifies for these benefits depend heavily on state law. However, most people will qualify for workers’ comp or similar benefits. Most companies are required to provide this coverage for all workers from their first day on the job. Only extremely small companies are exempted from providing some type of coverage in most states.
Workers’ compensation benefits generally include:
- Medical coverage for all necessary diagnosis, treatment, and care
- Wage loss benefits, usually about two-thirds of your normal pay
- Vocational and job-training benefits as needed
- Death benefits for families whose loved one passes away
It is important to note that you can return to work in a limited capacity and continue to receive wage loss benefits through workers’ comp, although it will only provide up to two-thirds of the difference between your current pay rate and your normal income.
How Can an Attorney Help with My Occupational Illness Case?
If you have a problem getting the workers’ compensation benefits or other compensation you need and deserve based on your occupational illness, you may need to work with an attorney who is familiar with these claims. They can appeal a denial or push your claim through even if your employer does not believe your condition is work-related or there is another hurdle to getting the benefits you need.
Some people may also be eligible to pursue a third-party civil claim against those who caused their exposure, as long as that is not their employer or a co-worker. For example, if another company spills a chemical on a worksite and you suffer lung damage, you may be able to recover compensation from this company.
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If you suffered an occupational illness and are now struggling to get approved for benefits for your medical care, wage losses, and more, reach out to the Morris Bart law firm for free today. The areas we serve include Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. We charge our clients based on a contingency fee only—no hourly fees or upfront costs.
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