Many workplaces have dangerous chemicals that a worker can inhale or absorb through their skin. These toxic chemicals may lead to serious diseases and illnesses..
The Vermont workers’ compensation system exists to help workers injured on the job. Fortunately, a toxic exposure at work will usually qualify for compensation. Larson & Gallivan Law stands ready to help any injured worker analyze their rights to compensation under the law. Below, we provide more information about making a workers’ comp claim due to toxic exposure.
Common Toxins at Work
State and federal laws require that employers provide a safe work environment. In many cases, toxins are released due to accidental spills. But some toxins are difficult to eliminate or contain, so workers should receive personal protection equipment (PPE), such as masks or gloves, which will keep them safe.
Some common chemicals at work include:
These chemicals have been associated with many serious health conditions:
- Skin infections
- Respiratory illness
- Neurological problems
Qualifying for Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Some medical conditions will be temporary and should resolve in a matter of weeks. Someone with a rash, for example, might miss two weeks of work. But a cancer diagnosis could keep someone out of work for months, and even longer depending on the seriousness of the illness. Many people are forced into an early retirement due to disabling medical conditions.
Generally, you qualify for workers’ compensation benefits if you can establish that the exposure took place at work, and a doctor says the exposure caused the condition.. This is true even if your employer used the most up-to-date safety precautions and if you received new PPE. Workers’ compensation benefits are awarded without fault.
One challenge is connecting your medical condition to an exposure at work. Many workers don’t have any idea they were exposed to toxins until they come down with a serious medical condition, like respiratory illness or lung cancer. At that point, they start to question whether they suffered exposure at work.
An insurer could always claim your exposure happened outside work, and workers’ compensation doesn’t cover off-the-job injuries. For example, you might get lung cancer, but the insurer blames your history of smoking cigarettes. A lawyer is an excellent asset to have. We can investigate and review documents to connect your illness or injury to a toxin exposure at work.
The Importance of Timely Medical Care
Not only will prompt medical care improve your odds of survival, but you can more successfully connect your illness to your workplace. This is the greatest hurdle workers face when exposed to toxins at work. When a worker falls off a building due to an explosion, there is an obvious link between the accident and the workers’ fall injuries. This link is harder to prove with illnesses like cancer or mesothelioma. Quality medical evidence is crucial for convincing an insurer that your cancer or other illness was caused by a workplace toxin. We strongly recommend going to the doctor as soon as you feel unwell. Keep all medical records and bills, as these will be important pieces of evidence.
Timing of Filing an Workers Compensation Claim
Normally you must notify your employer of a potential workers compensation claim within six months of the injury, and the statute of limitations is three years from the date of injury. But in some cases, including some occupational exposure cases, the statute of limitations is only two years. In toxic exposure cases it may take some time for the illness or injury to be diagnosed. As soon as you have even a suspicion that an illness was caused by exposure at work, you should report your concern to your employer in writing. This is extremely important to ensure you don’t run out of time to pursue your claim.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits
The workers’ compensation system makes severaltypes of benefits available, so it is worth your time to see if you qualify. Even if an insurer denies your claim, you should meet with a lawyer to review.
Workers’ compensation should kick in and cover 100% of all reasonable and necessary medical care to treat your exposure. Medical care can include:
- Hospital overnights
- Diagnostic testing
- Lab work
- Prescription medication
- Doctor’s appointment
- Specialist appointments
- Assistive devices
- Travel reimbursement to receive care
As an injured worker, you should not have to pay for care, so long as the care is reasonable and necessary.
Wage Replacement Benefits (Indemnity Benefits)
Occupational illnesses often prevent people from working. Our clients usually receive benefits on either a temporary or permanent basis. These benefits provide a critical lifeline for a worker too sick to earn a living.
Some toxic exposures sadly lead to death. Vermont provides a death benefit to certain dependents, such as a surviving spouse and minor children. The benefit will depend on your loved one’s average weekly wages. A spouse could receive this death benefit until they reach retirement age or remarry; some will receive benefits for life.
Can Our Vermont Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Help You?
Yes. We have decades of combined experience bringing workers’ compensation claims, and we are prepared to help you. Call us today to schedule a meeting, 802-327-8458.