An occupational illness develops slowly by exposure over time to an irritant or poison. A worker may not notice the effects of exposure for many months or years. Additionally, not every worker will respond to a harmful substance in the same way.
Pennsylvania workers in the construction industry, factory workers, truck drivers, and medical and health professionals are just some of the people at risk for occupational illnesses. Exposure to dust from rock mining or crops; fumes from diesel fuel or welding tools; and fibers from asbestos insulation or carpeting can all harm a worker’s health – sometimes with lasting and debilitating damage.
Examples of occupational illness include:
- Asbestosis – a danger for construction workers working on older buildings in which asbestos fibers are present
- Bronchiolitis obliterans or Popcorn lung – a serious lung disease that develops in workers in microwave popcorn plants and others who handle flavorings. Butter flavorings in food products such as frostings, chips, and margarines pose a risk of popcorn lung for the workers exposed to them.
- Byssinosis or brown lung – a lung disease found in cotton, flax, and hemp workers
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – COPD is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema
- Coal worker’s pneumoconiosis – also called black lung disease, is caused by inhaling coal dust
- Farmer’s lung – an allergy to mold and bacteria found in crops that produces asthma-like symptoms, but can also cause permanent lung damage that can be fatal
- Flock worker’s lung – flock is the result of cutting nylon fibers into small strands which are used for carpeting, blankets, and upholstery. Inhaling the fibers every day can cause inflammation and scarring of the lungs
- Mesothelioma – a deadly lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure
- Silicosis – commonly known as miner’s lung; silica dust is also found in stone, clay, and glass manufacturing facilities
- Silo filler’s disease – caused by inhaling the toxic gas from crops fermenting in silos
Exposure to toxins may also cause an occupational illness. Workers in many different industries are continually exposed to dangerous materials. While there are many potentially deadly toxins present at worksites across the U.S., some of the most common chemicals linked to occupational illnesses include:
- Manganese (present in welding fumes)
Occupational illnesses are typically covered under the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation act. Almost all Pennsylvania workers are covered by this law with a few exceptions. Railroad workers, longshoremen, and shipyard and harbor workers are examples of workers whose compensation is covered by other laws in the event of a workplace injury or illness. Agricultural laborers and domestics as well as volunteer workers may not be covered by the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation act.
If you or someone you know is suffering from a work-related illness, you should consult with a qualified attorney. The Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyers at Gross & Kenny, LLP, focus solely on workers’ compensation law and will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. Be aware that the initial case evaluation is complimentary. Thus, if you suspect you might have reason to seek compensation due to being exposed to a hazard in the workplace, but you’re not entirely certain you have valid grounds to file a claim, you’re not taking a financial risk by reviewing the case with a Philadelphia occupational illness attorney who can more thoroughly explain your legal options.
Under the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation act, an occupational illness is covered if it was caused by or aggravated by your employment. To be eligible for compensation, the disability had to take place within 300 weeks of the last time you were exposed to the hazard as part of your job. If your claim is successful you may receive some or all of the following benefits:
- Wage loss benefits – whether you are totally disabled and unable to do your job, or partially disabled and receiving less pay than before your illness.
- Medical care – including medicine, supplies, hospital treatment, and physical therapy related to occupational illness.
- Death benefits are paid to surviving dependents in the case of a fatality.
Filing a Claim for Occupational Illness
It is very important that you do not delay when hiring a Philadelphia occupation illness lawyer to help you seek compensation. The time frame for filing a claim for occupational illness is very specific.
There is a three-year statute of limitations for filing and the employee is required to give notice of the occurrence of the illness within 120 days. As mentioned above, the disability must also occur within 300 weeks or roughly six years of the last exposure to the hazardous substance. In general, a worker whose illness progresses over many years and only causes disability outside of the 300-week time frame is generally barred from receiving workers’ compensation benefits. This is true also for the families of workers who pass away from occupational illness after more than 300 weeks from the date of exposure. In these cases, it may be possible to receive compensation via a civil lawsuit against the manufacturer or supplier of the hazardous substance. These types of personal injury claims filed in civil court have a two-year statute of limitations.
How a Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Law Firm Helps
A Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorney who specializes in occupational illness cases can assist you in many ways throughout the claims process. For instance, a lawyer can:
- Review your case to confirm if you are eligible for compensation
- Gather evidence showing that you developed an illness specifically as a result of exposure to workplace hazards
- Handle all aspects of the claims process (such as completing and filing paperwork) so that you may focus on your recovery
- Reject unfair settlement offers from insurance companies and negotiate for a fair payout on your behalf
Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyers of Gross & Kenny, LLP Advocate for Workers Suffering from an Occupational Illness
Occupational illness claims are complex and require an attorney with thorough knowledge of the Workers’ Compensation system. At Gross & Kenny, LLP, our Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyers will fight to make sure that you and your family receive the maximum benefits allowed by law. Contact us online or call 215-512-1500 to schedule a free consultation about your case in our Center City Philadelphia offices.