Slow building injuries and illnesses that occur at work can be equally as difficult to deal with as one-time accidents or injuries. However, workers’ compensation benefits seem to be written for these single incidents so it's difficult to understand what workers' compensation benefits may apply to your situation. In short, if you’ve been injured at work -- whether in a single incident or over time -- you are likely eligible for workers’ compensation benefits and may have grounds for additional injury claims.
Injuries and Illnesses that Develop Over Time
It’s common for workers to develop injuries over time as they do their job. In an extreme example, if you work in an industry that requires you to handle and use toxic materials, and you are exposed to these harmful chemicals while you are at work, and then develop a serious lung condition linked to these chemicals, you may be eligible for workers compensation and other benefits.
Even if employees take safety precautions to protect themselves at work, he or she may still experience injuries or illnesses related to the nature of their work. Repetitive strain injuries are also, by definition, caused when a person repeats the same movement over and over. Another example of a slow-building injury is carpal tunnel syndrome, which happens when the carpal tunnel passageway in a person’s wrist compresses the nerves and tendons, causing numbness and tingling. None of these injuries could be attributed to a single accident at work. However, almost all of them are common injuries that workers develop because of the demands of their job.
When to Report Your Symptoms or Injury
Typically, your eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits partially relies on you notifying your employer of your injury 14 days after the injury occurs. In some cases, you can wait up to 90 days to notify your employer of an at-work injury after it happens if you have a good reason for not speaking up sooner. In the case of slow-developing injuries, this timeline can be confusing. However, you may be able to bring a successful claim if you notify your employer within 90 days of realizing your injury. For example, although a hearing injury develops over time, you should report the injury to your employer the first time you experience ringing in your ears, hearing loss or other symptoms. Then, see a doctor as soon as you can.
Evidence for a Long Term Workplace Injury
In order for workers’ compensation benefits to cover the costs associated with an injury, it’s important that you prove the injury came as a result of the duties you perform at work. This can be difficult when it comes to some long term injuries and illnesses because your employer’s insurance carrier will sooner blame the incident on other outside factors. One way to gather evidence and prove your claim is to seek medical advice and visit a doctor as soon as you notice your injury. A doctor’s professional opinion can support evidence that the injury you received would have been caused by the movements you make or the environment you are in at work. Seeking medical attention can also help substantiate your monetary claim for treatment expenses and lost wages attributed to the injury.
If you have sustained a long term injury or illness at work, you might be entitled to worker’s compensation benefits that can be used to cover the following damages:
- Lost Wages
- Loss of earning potential
- Hospital expenses
- Compensation for long-term or permanent disability
Under state and federal law, your employer must maintain a safe working environment for all of the workers they employ. If your employer fails in this duty, they can be considered negligent under the law and held liable for your direct expenses as well as non-economic damages like pain and suffering.
Brandon J. Broderick, Workers Compensation Lawyers
At Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, we are dedicated to assisting clients throughout New Jersey and New York with their workers’ compensation cases. We have years of experience and the extensive resources you need to secure a fair case result. If you’ve suffered injuries or illness from a long-term workplace hazard or situation, contact us today for a free consultation.