When most people think of workers’ compensation law, they imagine an injury that is easily visible and diagnosable. Broken bones, lacerations, and muscular injuries are common work injuries that result from some sort of traumatic accident in the workplace. But what happens when an injury isn’t visible to the naked eye?
What does a worker do when they develop an internal condition as a result of their employment?
Occupational illness occurs to many employees at some point during their career. One of the most notable types of occupational illness is the cancer that develops as a result of exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally-occurring substance that was often used in insulation until its carcinogenic properties were discovered. Asbestos can still be found in many buildings, and during its removal, construction workers or other workers can be exposed to the inhalation of asbestos dust. This inhalation often leads to a deadly cancer called mesothelioma much later in life.
At our Omaha workers’ compensation law firm, we have seen many different types of exposure and illness cases. From a bacterial infection to lung conditions from inhalation of particles in the workplace, our firm has handled claims that are out of the ordinary.
If you have suffered a work-related illness, there are some things that you need to keep in mind about your claim. The most important thing to understand is that your claim will come with unique challenges in showing causation.
Did the work environment cause the condition?
Causation is a legal concept that a plaintiff has the burden to show when they bring a workers’ compensation claim. The employee has to show that there was a risk of illness or injury, and that the illness or injury developed as a result of being employed in the environment that caused their injury. This is relatively simple to show when, for example, a construction worker suffers a fall injury. But it is more difficult to show when there is a large gap in time between the cause of the illness and the manifestations of symptoms or when the condition isn’t easily diagnosed. As time goes by, causation becomes more difficult to prove.
When you believe that your medical condition was a result of your employment, there are several things you can do in order to help improve your ability to succeed in your workers’ compensation claim.
The first is to have a heightened awareness of important dates. You need to see a doctor as soon as you can and you need to put your employer on notice at the earliest possible time. Notice to your employer is not optional. It is a requirement of any workers’ compensation claim in the State of Nebraska. You also need to be aware of the date the symptoms began to appear, any date of diagnosis, and any date when your condition caused you to stop working. Even if you do not have symptoms, but you are aware that you have been exposed to a chemical, illness, or other potentially hazardous substance, you need to properly notify your employer of the exposure. If you find out about the exposure and you don’t tell anyone, your claim could be denied.
And lastly, the sooner you speak to an attorney about your potential case, the better. Exposure cases require an experienced legal team who can handle the unique challenges that these types of cases present. For more information about how we can help with your occupational illness or exposure case, call our office today.