Work-related injuries are often sudden and traumatic, occurring when employees least expect them. But some “injuries” happen over time, within months or years. They are known as occupational diseases. Most claims arising from occupational diseases involve prolonged exposure to a toxic substance or a repetitive task.
This is because the effect of a hazardous working environment often results in chronic pain and long-term disability. At worst, a person exposed to the hazard for a long time might die from the effects. Thus, Georgia employees must understand the state’s work comp law and occupational diseases. If you believe your illness is work-related, our workers’ compensation lawyers at Calvin Smith Law can help you get the benefits you deserve.
What Types of Occupational Disease Does Georgia Workers’ Comp Law Cover?
A workplace is hazardous if it exposes employees to irritants, pathogens, toxins, and unsafe working conditions. If left unchecked, these hazards affect the employees’ health, causing them to develop diseases and disorders. The occupational disease could be a new condition or aggravate a pre-existing condition.
In Georgia, some of the common workers’ comp diseases recognized by law are:
- Hearing loss
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Pulmonary fibrosis
- Lower back disorders
- Vision loss
- Chronic traumatic encephalopathy
- Mercury poisoning
- Skin inflammations, etc.
Georgia law does not consider psychological and psychiatric problems, partial hearing loss due to excessive sound, and heart and vascular diseases, e.g., heart attack, as occupational diseases. They will only qualify if they arise from another condition that the law accepts as an occupational disease. Thus, before filing a workers’ compensation claim, speak with a work comp lawyer to ensure that your illness is compensable.
What Are the Common Causes of Occupational Diseases?
An occupational illness arises from different factors. For instance, a worker who performs a similar task throughout the workday can develop repetitive stress injuries like cervical strain or carpal tunnel syndrome. Some other common causes of occupational diseases are:
- Unsafe working conditions
- Exposure to toxic chemicals and hazardous materials
- Poorly ventilated work area
- Hard physical labor
- Contact with allergens
- Severe and unfavorable weather conditions
- Loud environments with insufficient personal protective equipment (PPE)
What Benefit Can You Get for Occupational Diseases?
Firstly, employers in Georgia with three or more full-time or part-time employees must have workers’ compensation insurance. Insurance coverage is the money employers use to pay benefits to employees who suffer a work-related injury or illness. Hence, an employee would receive the following benefits from their employer or the work comp insurance carrier:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages (usually a temporary disability benefit for when the employee recovers)
- Disability benefits (for when the employee is unable to fully recover and can’t return to work)
- Funeral and burial expenses (also referred to as death benefits for when an employee dies from a work-related illness)
Notably, not everyone who files a work-comp claim can receive compensation, especially for occupational disease claims. According to O.C.G.A 34-9-281 b (1), an employee would get work comp benefits if:
- The disease arose out of and in the course of the employment in which the employee was engaged under such employer.
- The employee contracted the disease while so engaged
- The disease resulted from hazard characteristics of the employment in excess of the hazards of such disease attending employment in general.
O.C.G.A 34-9-281 b (2) provides that the claim for disablement must commence within one year after the employee knew or should have known “in the exercise of reasonable diligence” that the employment caused the disablement. The law adds that on no account shall the claim for disability be filed more than seven years after the last harmful exposure to the hazard of such disease.
In the case of death, the employee’s survivors’ must commence the claim within one year, so long as the employee had a cause of action while they lived. Furthermore, the O.C.G.A 34-9-280 requires employee to prove these five elements to be eligible for workers’ comp:
- Direct causation between the conditions for performing the work and the disease
- The disease is a natural incident of exposure because of employment.
- The disease is not of a character to which the employee may have had substantial exposure outside the employment.
- The disease is not an ordinary disease of life to which the general public is exposed to.
- The disease must appear to have had its origin in a risk connected with the employment and to have flowed from that source as a natural consequence.
Contact Us Today!
At Calvin Smith Law, our experienced workers’ comp lawyers will help you prove the five requirements mentioned above and get you the benefits you deserve. Contact us today for a free case review.