What Is An Occupational Disease?

Occupational diseases arise over time.

The Workers Compensation Law protects workers who sustain injuries in the course of their employment. There are different types of injuries that are covered under the law. An accidental injury is the most common and familiar to the working person. An accidental injury is easy to identify it is usually a traumatic event. However, most workers are not informed as to the existence of another form of an injury that is covered under the law. That is the occupational disease. An occupational disease does not arise from a specific traumatic event. It is a condition or disability that develops over time usually based upon a repetitive aspect of an occupation.

An occupational disease does not arise from a specific traumatic event. It is a condition or disability that develops over time usually based upon a repetitive aspect of an occupation.

To be considered an occupational disease there must be a distinctive feature to the claimant’s employment that caused the condition to develop. For instance a construction worker who lifts heavy bags of cement for 10 years and is diagnosed with tear in the knee without any incident may have a claim for an occupational disease. Another typical case is a data-entry worker who develops carpal tunnel syndrome from heavy computer work. Workers who are exposed to a noisy work environment can file a claim for an occupational loss of when they retire or are removed from the noisy work area.

A claimant can file a claim for benefits under the occupational disease statute even if the diagnosis comes long after the claimant has left the harmful work environment. This is a common feature of the slow starting job related diseases, like silicosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The claim must be filed within two years of the date of disablement. Typically, this is the date that the claimant was diagnosed with the occupational disease. Other factors such as, the date of first lost time from work can be used as a date of disablement, but usually the date of first diagnosis is determinative.

To file a claim the injured worker must complete a C-3 claim form. The claim gets filed against the last employer that placed the claimant in the harmful environment. Even if the claimant worked for multiple employers over the course of the work career the claim must be filed against the claimant’s last employer. On the C-3 form the injured worker must explain the job duties that caused the development of the disability. This must be verified by a medical report from the claimant’s treating physician. The medical report must contain an occupational history of the nature of the claimant’s job as it relates to the development of the disability. The report must also make a connection between the disability and occupational history. Unlike an accidental injury claim, the claimant diagnosed with an occupational disease does not have to notify the employer of the condition within 30 days. A claimant has two years from the date of disablement to notify the employer and file the claim with the Workers’ Compensation Board.

If a claim is established as compensable for an occupational disease the injured worker is entitled to the same benefits as a worker who has an accidental injury. The disabled worker would be entitled to both monetary awards and medical coverage for the injury.

To benefit from the occupational disease section of the Workers’ Compensation Law, an injured worker should immediately file a claim upon knowledge that a medical condition may have been caused by their work. This will insure that the worker is not time barred from securing medical and indemnity benefits for the condition.

Prior results do not guarantee outcomes.
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