When many people think of workplace accidents, they think of trauma injuries, like falls. But a substantial portion of workers’ compensation claims involve occupational diseases that occur over time. Sometimes, it may be a very, very long time.
The same rules apply to both claims for physical injuries and occupational diseases. Victims need not establish fault to obtain compensation for their economic losses, including:
- Lost Wages: If the victim has a temporary disability, workers’ compensation usually pays two-thirds of the average weekly wage until the victim is cleared to return to work. If the disability is permanent, workers’ compensation typically pays a lump sum or an annuity.
- Medical Bills: In addition to emergency care, workers’ compensation pays for follow-up care, medical devices, physical rehabilitation, and any other reasonably necessary medical costs.
Even if the victim has a pre-existing injury or condition that increases the likelihood or severity of an occupational disease, full workers’ compensation benefits are available, in most cases.
Common Occupational Diseases and Issues Covered by Workers’ Compensation
One in five people have some degree of hearing loss. Among people over 65, the proportion increases to one in three. In most cases, the hearing loss is related to an educational or workplace environment. Noise levels as low as 85 decibels, which is basically a chamber orchestra in a smallish concert hall, are high enough to cause hearing loss over time. The louder the sound, the shorter the time period required.
Typically, hearing aids are about the only cure for hearing loss. The good news is that, with the right kind of device, many victims get almost all of their hearing back with devices that are small and unobtrusive. Workers’ compensation pays for these devices in full, as well as any necessary medical appointments to diagnose the condition and find the right kind of hearing aid.
Musculoskeletal Disorders account for about a third of workers’ compensation costs. Much like hearing loss, MSDs are usually not life-threatening, but they are incredibly disruptive to victims’ personal lives. They also substantially decrease productivity on the job. Some common MSDs include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome,
- Sprained ligament,
- Thoracic outlet compression,
- Tension neck syndrome
- Trigger finger,
- Herniated disc,
- De Quervain’s syndrome
- Degenerative disc disease,
- Digital neuritis, and
- Radial tunnel syndrome.
MSDs can affect anyone. Some of them are muscle-related conditions that affect construction workers and others who are on their feet a lot, while others strike office workers.
These conditions typically only get better after extensive physical therapy. A St. Petersburg workers’ compensation attorney can not only arrange for victims to receive this treatment at no upfront cost, but also connect victims with qualified occupational therapists who routinely deal with that specific kind of occupational disease. So, in most cases, victims get back to work faster, which is what everyone wants.
Asbestos Exposure Illnesses
Mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other similar lung disease may be completely latent for forty years or even longer. Therefore, these conditions are difficult to diagnose, because the patient has no apparent risk factors for lung cancer or other serious illness. Asbestos was widely used in construction, shipbuilding, and other industries until at least the 1970s. As such, asbestos remediation is an ongoing issue. Workers may be unintentionally exposed to asbestos as well. It’s estimated that the World Trade Center towers contained about 5,000 tons of asbestos, and many of these victims may show absolutely no sign of illness for at least several more decades.
The strict time deadlines commonly associated with workers’ compensation claims are somewhat suspended in asbestos cases. However, victims must still file claims as soon as they are diagnosed with asbestosis, mesothelioma, or another such condition. A failure to do so may mean the loss of compensation and lung cancer treatments are far too expensive for most people to afford.
Though commonly associated with trauma injuries, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder may also be an occupational disease. First responders are especially susceptible to PTSD. Combat-like situations erode the amygdala, which is the part of the brain which controls logical thought. Without a strong amygdala, the prefrontal cortex hijacks brain functions. This part of the brain controls visceral emotional responses, which is why PTSD victims experience symptoms like:
- Heightened awareness,
- Nightmares, and
In many cases, PTSD causes physical issues as well. This video is a good example. Before physical therapy, the shell shock victim is completely unable to function. After extensive treatment, he is almost entirely normal, save for a persistent physical tic and some other lingering symptoms.
Prolonged exposure to wood dust, animal dander, grain dust, fungi, and certain chemicals may all trigger occupational asthma. Typically, people with unusually sensitive airways are particularly at risk for this occupational disease. About the only cure is to end the exposure, which could mean wearing a respirator, but most likely means changing jobs.
Florida workers’ compensation usually pays full benefits to people with pre-existing medical conditions. Essentially, the occupational disease must create the illness as opposed to aggravating it, and that can be a very fine line. Workers’ compensation also pays victims the difference in salary if they can no longer pursue a certain occupation and must accept a lower-paying position.
Count On Savvy Attorneys to Help You Seek Compensation for Occupational Diseases
Those suffering from occupational diseases may be entitled to the compensation they need to get better. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in St. Petersburg, contact Burnetti, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.