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Back June 10, 2020

Workers’ Compensation Claims for Job-Related Illnesses

When you think of a workers’ compensation claim, you might think of a claim following an accident on the job that causes injuries to a worker. While most claims might involve a physical injury, did you know that workers’ compensation can also cover work-related illnesses, as well?

Many jobs can put you at risk of contracting certain illnesses, and the treatment for an illness can be costly. In addition, the symptoms of some illnesses can be debilitating, and you might have to stop working for a period of time. For some people, an illness can be life-threatening or fatal. 

In any situation, a work-related illness can derail your life and result in many financial losses. This is why it is so important to understand your rights to benefits from your employer, and that you ensure that you have a successful claim. This can be a challenging process, so you should never hesitate to contact a Matthews workers’ compensation lawyer for assistance. 

When is an Illness Considered to be Work-Related?

In order for workers’ compensation to apply, the medical condition in question must stem from the course of a person’s employment, and this goes for both injuries and illnesses. For this reason, it is important to understand when an illness is considered to be job-related or not. If you have questions about your specific situation, speak directly with an attorney who can evaluate your circumstances. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules state that an illness is work-related if it is caused or contributed to by an event or exposure in the work environment. Generally speaking, illnesses that can be commonly contracted in public places or outside the workplace will not qualify for the purposes of workers’ compensation. However, there are many illnesses that are the result of workplace exposure – whether the exposure is to other sick individuals, toxic substances, or other unhealthy conditions. If you believe that your illness is work-related, it is always worth it to consult with a workers’ compensation lawyer. 

Common Work-Related Illnesses

North Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act covers any disease that has been proven to be caused by conditions that are characteristic of the specific work environment or occupation. This excludes “ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is equally exposed outside of the employment. The law sets out a list of conditions that will be considered to be occupational diseases. These include the following:

  •  Brass poisoning
  • Arsenic poisoning
  • Manganese poisoning
  • Zinc poisoning
  • Lead poisoning following sufficient exposure (30 days in the last 12 months)
  • Mercury poisoning
  • Carbon bisulphide, hydrocarbon, or methanol poisoning
  • Phosphorus poisoning
  • Benzol poisoning
  • Anthrax
  • Compressed-air illness
  • Chrome ulceration
  • Radioactive substance poisoning
  • Eye cancer or eye ulceration due to harmful substances
  • Miner’s nystagmus
  • Bursitis or bone felon due to intermittent pressure on the job
  • Blisters from using tools or machinery
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Synovitis or tenosynovitis
  • Sulfuric, hydrofluoric, or hydrochloric acid poisoning
  • Psittacosis
  • Asbestosis
  • Silicosis
  • Undulant fever
  • Smallpox infection, including infection from a vaccine or from another employee who was vaccinated
  • Hearing loss caused by harmful noise in a work environment, which has specific decibel requirements 

If you are feeling unwell following possible exposure at work, you should see a doctor right away. Similarly, if you believe something is wrong and you do not know the cause, always inquire of your doctor whether the illness could be related to your working conditions. 

COVID-19 and Workers’ Compensation

There are many questions regarding whether workers’ compensation benefits might be available to someone who is reporting to work and contracts the novel coronavirus. Just because someone is diagnosed, however, does not necessarily mean that the virus will qualify as work-related. 

Currently, the state legislature is considering a bill that would make it much easier for many people to obtain workers’ compensation benefits for COVID-19. HB 1057 would create a rebuttable presumption that “essential” workers who have COVID-19 were exposed at work. These include healthcare workers, emergency workers, and grocery store workers, among others. It would be up to the employer to show that the exposure did not happen at work. 

This bill has not yet passed, and many businesses and business associations have spoken out against the proposal. They claim that employers will suffer the costs of defending against numerous coronavirus claims, as well as face increased premiums as claims stack up. On the other hand, if the bill becomes law, employees who put themselves at risk on the frontlines and who need medical treatment and quarantine due to coronavirus would have easier access to benefits. 

We will be watching to see whether HB 1057 passes or not. In the meantime, employees with COVID-19 might have an uphill battle to get benefits. Healthcare workers who are in contact with COVID-19 patients might have a better chance of showing they were exposed at work. It might be more difficult for workers in retail or other businesses to prove exposure. If there is an outbreak at your place of work and many people contract coronavirus, you will have additional evidence that your job put you at risk. 

If you are wondering about a possible claim based on COVID-19, you should not wait to discuss the matter with an experienced attorney. This can be a challenging situation, and you want the right legal assistance to ensure you receive the benefits you deserve.

Consult with a Matthews Workers Compensation Lawyer Today

Suffering from a work-related illness or disease can cause many problems in your life. Unfortunately, it might be more difficult to obtain workers’ compensation benefits for an illness than it is for an injury. You want to have a highly experienced and skilled legal team on your side, handling every step of your claim. 

The Panchenko Law Firm helps clients with tough cases, including those involving workplace illnesses. We fight for your right to full and fair workers’ comp benefits, and we will not back down against insurance companies. Call (704) 900-7675 or contact us online for a free consultation with a Matthews workers’ compensation attorney. 

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