Does Workers’ Comp cover disease?

When most people think about workers’ compensation, they think about accidents occurring in the workplace that result in an injury and a payout. While these are the most common workers’ comp claims, they are far from being the only thing covered. In addition to accidents, workers’ compensation covers injuries sustained as a result of repetitive activities that wear down the body over time, as well as diseases that resulted from workplace exposure to toxins.

What diseases qualify?

Determining whether a disease qualifies for workers’ compensation is simple in some cases. However, it can be far more complex in others. If there is a clear-cut cause and effect that can be drawn from the workplace to your illness, then a workers’ comp claim should be easily approved. For example, if you work as a veterinarian and you are bitten by a dog with rabies while at work, then your treatment will be covered.

On the other hand, if you work in construction and develop cancer, it can be hard to prove that your cancer is related to the workplace. In most cases, a doctor would not be able to testify that your exposure at work was what resulted in your illness. This is true even if you were exposed to dangerous chemicals at work that are known carcinogens. The possibility of other causes outside of work is often too high.

In certain cancer cases though, it is a bit clearer. If you are a construction worker and you’ve been involved in the demolition of older buildings, then there is a good chance you have come into contact with asbestos. Should you then be diagnosed with mesothelioma, you will most likely receive a settlement for your workers’ comp claim, as the cause of mesothelioma is almost solely due to contact with asbestos.

There are many types of diseases that potentially qualify for workers’ compensation. If you have developed an illness and believe it is due to your job, talk to a qualified attorney about your options. Some common workplace diseases and conditions include:

  • Asbestosis;
  • Asthma;
  • Allergic reactions;
  • Black lung;
  • Cancer;
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome;
  • COVID-19;
  • Heart disease;
  • Hernias;
  • High blood pressure; and
  • HIV/AIDS

How to get an acceptable settlement

If you develop any disease that you believe is work-related, you will most likely want to pursue a workers’ compensation claim. If your case is incredibly strong, like a coal miner developing black lung, then the insurance company will likely offer you a settlement. 

All workers’ compensation settlements should be negotiated rather than accepting the first offer. You can do this yourself, however, you might get a better outcome if you get a lawyer to represent you.

In situations where your case isn’t as clear cut, and your claim is denied, you will certainly want to hire a qualified attorney to get you the compensation you deserve. If your claim gets denied, then you will have to file an appeal on the decision. A workers’ compensation attorney can walk you through the steps of appeal, and handle your case in an appeal hearing.

In proving a workers’ compensation claim for a workplace disease, there is a heavy burden of proof for which the worker is responsible. Any reasonable doubt as to how the illness was contracted, will lead to a dismissal of the case. A heart attack suffered by a firefighter while responding to a call is an easy case to prove as work-related. However, a heart attack suffered by an office worker making copies is a bit more difficult to prove.

The worker who collapsed while making copies may have a more difficult case to prove, but not necessarily an impossible one. If the office worker was facing immense stress at work, and their job security was threatened, they may have a case. In a situation like this, it is important to show that the heart attack was specifically triggered by work, rather than as a mixed result of lifestyle.

If the worker has spent years eating junk food and not exercising, then their claim will almost certainly be dead in the water. However, if the worker had a checkup at the doctor a year ago and all of their body stats came up normal, then the pressure at work began, that changes things. A good workers’ comp attorney would be able to argue that the decline in health that led to the heart attack was a direct result of the workplace pressure.

With so many variables that can lead to dismissal of a valid workers’ comp claim for a workplace disease, it is important to have a lawyer on your side, who is familiar with the system and can help to ensure you get the money to pay your medical bills. When suffering from any disease, the last thing you need is the stress of financial hardship.

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