Are Occupational Diseases Covered By Workers Compensation?
When a person is injured as a result of an accident on the job, Workers Compensation is available to that person. Workers Compensation provides the injured worker with wage compensation, medical treatment, and compensation for any permanent condition resulting from the accident. In North Carolina, workers compensation is administered by the North Carolina Industrial Commission.
In addition to injuries arising out of on the job accidents, Workers Compensation is available to persons suffering from certain occupational diseases.” Occupational diseases” are conditions resulting from exposure to harmful substances or conditions while on the job. In order to be compensable, the disease or condition must be one of those listed in the Workers Compensation statute.
These include conditions caused by exposure to materials used in manufacturing processes, such as asbestosis and silicosis, poisoning by chemicals used in manufacturing, such as arsenic or zinc, and hearing loss caused by exposure to high noise levels. The statute also contains a “catch all” provision for any disease caused by exposure to substances or conditions that are “peculiar” to the industry in which the person was employed.
How Does A Person Establish A Claim?
The procedure for making a claim based on an occupational disease is the same as that for a claim based on an on the job accident. The first step is to notify the employer of the condition. This should be done immediately upon diagnosis.
The next step is to file a claim with the Industrial Commission. This too should be done without delay. The claim will then be reviewed by the employer, or more likely the employer’s workers compensation insurer, who will decide whether to accept or deny the claim. If the claim is denied, the employee must request a hearing before the Industrial Commission. These hearings are conducted by a deputy commissioner.
At this hearing the employee must present evidence to establish that he or she is suffering from a disease or condition that qualifies as an “occupational disease”, that they were exposed to the substance or condition that caused the disease in the course of their employment, that such exposure did, in fact, cause the disease or condition, and the extent of their disability resulting from the condition. In cases under the “catch all” provision, the employee must also establish that the disease or condition was caused by something “peculiar” to their employment. Even in cases where the claim is initially accepted, disputes can arise that require a hearing before a deputy commissioner.
After the deputy commissioner has made a decision to approve or deny the claim, either party can appeal that decision for review by the full commission. This almost always happens, especially when the deputy commissioner rules in favor of the employee. The review is conducted by a panel composed of three members of the commission. The review is based on the evidence presented at the hearing before the deputy commissioner. Therefore, it is important that the employee present evidence to establish all elements of his or her claim at the initial hearing before the deputy commissioner. Appeal from the decision of the full commission is to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Like the review by the full commission, this review is based on the record of the hearing before the deputy commissioner.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed as suffering from an occupational disease, contact the attorneys at Ted A. Greve & Associates for a free and confidential initial consultation and evaluation. If we feel your claim has merit, we can help you file your application and represent you in any required hearings. While at the initial stages workers compensation proceedings are less formal than other legal proceedings, there are still requirements that the employee must comply with in order to successfully prosecute a claim. Having someone experienced and knowledgeable in those procedures on your side can increase your chances for a successful outcome. These cases are taken on a contingency fee basis, so you will owe no legal fees unless we are successful in establishing your claim.