As discussed in Chapter 7, an accidental personal injury for the purposes of workers’ compensation insurance includes an occupational disease arising out of the normal course of employment. The requirements for “arising out of” and “normal course of employment” would be the same for an occupational disease as it would be for an accidental injury.
If an employee develops an illness or disease as a result of conditions the employee was exposed to while the employee performed duties associated with the normal course of employment, the employee’s illness or disease should be covered by workers’ compensation insurance. However, proving that a disease or illness is the result of conditions in the workplace can be challenging. Some diseases may be easily linked to workplace conditions. For instance, a groundskeeper develops cancer from being exposed to chemicals used in pesticides, or an EMT experiences hearing loss because of the daily exposure to loud sirens.
However, other occupational diseases may be more difficult to link to job duties or conditions in the workplace. For example, repetitive stress injuries such as degenerative disc disease or carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by a variety of repetitive movements. An employee would need to present evidence that proves the condition was the result of repetitive motions at work instead of another cause.
How Do Occupational Diseases Develop?
An occupational disease or illness typically develops over a long period when an employee is exposed to certain conditions, but it does not always take years for a condition to develop.
Most occupational illnesses and diseases develop because of chemical, psychosocial, biological, or physical factors in the workplace. In some cases, an employee may develop an occupational disease because the employer’s practices do not comply with state and federal regulations that ensure a safe working environment. For instance, an employer may cause employees to be exposed to unsafe levels of chemical fumes, carcinogens, asbestos, or bacteria because the employer cuts corners on safety measures and regulations to save money.
On the other hand, some employees are at a higher risk for an occupational disease because of the type of job they hold. Firefighters, police officers, nurses, miners, and factory workers are at a higher risk for some injuries because of the inherent hazards associated with performing their job duties.
Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim for an Occupational Illness
If you believe your health condition is related to your job, you should report the condition to your employer and talk to your physician. You may be entitled to medical and disability benefits. Remember, you must prove that workplace conditions caused your illness or disease. A Maryland workers’ comp attorney can help you gather the evidence you need to prove your job conditions caused your illness.
Contact Pinder Plotkin at 410-525-5337 to schedule a free consultation with a Maryland workers’ comp attorney.