Many people associate workers compensation with a workplace accident that results in an injury. While this is a common scenario for a workers comp claim in New Jersey, workers who can prove an occupational disease may qualify for workers compensation benefits also. In this blog post, we’ll review what occupational diseases may be covered and what to do if you believe you have a claim.
What is an Occupational Disease?
New Jersey Law, Statute 34:15-31, defines occupational disease as “all diseases arising out of and in the course of employment, which are due in a material degree to causes and conditions which are or were characteristic of or peculiar to a particular trade, occupation, process or place of employment.” The general aging process that deteriorates bones, organs or function is not considered an occupational disease.
- Hearing loss
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Toxic inhalation injury
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
First responders, police officers and firefighters from Jersey City to Trenton, NJ, have special provisions under New Jersey’s Thomas P. Canzanella Twenty First Century First Responders Protection Act. These laws acknowledge the extreme risks public safety workers endure for exposure to toxic substances, especially in the act of fighting terror, violence and other disasters. Additionally, these laws have special allowances for the length of time it may take for certain occupational diseases to manifest after exposure.
Proving Your Disease Was Caused by Your Job
Proving that your disease was caused by your job can be complex. First, you must be able to prove that the disease was caused by conditions that are characteristic of and specific to a particular occupation. Second, the disease was not an ordinary development of life, for which the general public has an equal risk of developing. For instance, workers who handled asbestos are at a high risk of developing mesothelioma, a devastating lung disease. The general public is generally not at risk of developing mesothelioma.
There are more than a few nuances to how to prove a disease was caused by your job. It’s in your best interest to contact an experienced workers compensation lawyer who can handle your claim and will know how to build evidence to prove the correlation between the disease and your occupation.
Filing a Workers Comp Claim for an Occupational Disease
If you’re suffering from a chronic condition or have been diagnosed with a disease and have been told or believe it’s related to your occupation, you may likely have grounds for a workers compensation claim in New Jersey. It’s important to report your illness to your employer in a timely manner as soon as you know or suspect the illness or disease is caused by your job. You generally have about 90 days to do so. Most all claims will be dismissed if you reported more 2 years or more after the illness developed and you were aware of the connection.
Your employer may require you to undergo an Independent Medical Exam, which allows doctors of their choosing to examine your medical records, conduct a medical visit with you and make their own evaluation. Because of the complexity of occupational disease workers comp claims, it’s important to contact an attorney as soon as possible to protect your best interests in the claims process.
Especially if you need to claim partial or total permanent disability, it’s in your best interest to consult with an attorney. These different classifications determine the amount of duration of benefits that an injured employee may receive. If you’ve been seriously injured, an attorney will bring in experts and build a strong case to receive the maximum level of benefits by law. Oftentimes, insurance companies may improperly classify a disability in order to pay less benefits.
Get Help with Your Occupational Disease Workers Comp Claim
You have the right to file a claim for benefits after suffering a work-related illness; however, receiving fair compensation for your bills and lost wages can be challenging. An experienced workers comp attorney can handle your case and make sure you get the benefits you need to recover from your injury and move forward.
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. We work on contingency fees, which means we only collect an attorney fee if your claim is successful. Contact us immediately to understand your options.