Getting sick on the job can be costly. If you are unable to work as a result of your disease, not only will you incur medical bills for your diagnosis and treatment, but you will need to find a way to cover your other expenses without your ordinary income as well. Fortunately, workers’ compensation covers both work-related injuries and occupational diseases.
What Is Occupational Disease?
An occupational disease is any illness or impairment you suffer as a result of going to work. This includes illnesses and impairments related directly to your job duties (e.g., getting sick from exposure to lead or mercury), as well as illnesses and impairments that you suffer simply as a result of being in your workplace or on your job site (e.g., catching a contagious disease from a coworker).
The International Labour Organization (ILO) has published an extensive list of occupational diseases. It breaks occupational diseases down into the following categories:
- Diseases caused by chemical agents (e.g., diseases caused by exposure to cadmium, phosphorus, mercury, lead, benzene, carbon monoxide, or hydrogen sulfide)
- Diseases caused by physical agents (e.g., diseases caused by exposure to noise, vibration, compressed air, ultraviolet light, ionizing radiations, or extreme temperatures)
- Diseases caused by biological agents (e.g., anthrax, brucellosis, and inflammatory syndromes associated with fungal contaminants)
- Infectious or parasitic diseases (e.g., hepatitis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), tetanus, and tuberculosis)
- Respiratory diseases (e.g., bronchopulmonary diseases, asthma, allergies, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Skin diseases (e.g., allergic reactions, dermatosis from irritants, vitiligo, and other skin diseases)
- Musculoskeletal disorders (e.g., chronic tenosynovitis, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other musculoskeletal disorders)
- Mental and behavioral disorders (e.g., post-traumatic stress disorder also known as PTSD)
- Occupational cancer (e.g., cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, benzidine, coal tar, nickel compounds, wood dust, arsenic, and ethylene oxide)
When Can You Seek Workers’ Compensation for an Occupational Disease?
If you are eligible to receive workers’ compensation and you are suffering from an occupational disease, you should consult with an attorney about filing a claim for benefits. In fact, even if you are unsure of your eligibility, you should still consult with an attorney, as filing a claim could be critical to your health and financial stability. Most workers in New Jersey are covered, so there is a good chance that you are entitled to workers’ compensation for your illness or impairment.
When seeking workers’ compensation for an occupational disease, there are two main issues that present challenges for employees. These are: (i) proving that your illness or impairment is work-related; and, (ii) proving that you have filed your claim on time. An experienced compensation attorney can help you seek to collect benefits under your employer’s workers’ compensation policy, but it will be important for you to get started as soon as possible.
What Workers’ Compensation Benefits Are Available to Employees with Occupational Diseases?
In New Jersey, workers’ compensation benefits fall into two main categories: medical and disability. Medical benefits provide coverage for the costs of your diagnosis and treatment until you reach your maximum medical improvement (MMI). Disability benefits also largely have two categories. Temporary total disability benefits are calculated at 70% of your usual and customary wages, and cover your loss of income if you are out of work for seven days or longer, until you are cleared to return to work. Permanent disability benefits are a monetary award available when an injured worker can prove a permanent medical condition due to a work-related injury, along with a loss of function.
Death benefits are also available to families who lose loved ones to occupational diseases. If you have lost a loved one to cancer or any other job-related illness, we encourage you to read: Fatalities in the Workplace.
When Should You File a Workers’ Compensation Claim for an Occupational Disease?
If you are sick or suffering from any other form of impairment and you believe that your medical condition may be work-related, you should speak with an attorney about filing a workers’ compensation claim, right away. New Jersey law imposes strict deadlines for notifying your employer and initiating your claim, and employers will often attempt to deny coverage for occupational diseases by claiming that their employees did not notify them or file on time. An experienced attorney can help make sure that you provide timely and adequate notice to your employer; and, if your employer attempts to deny your claim, your attorney can fight to make sure you receive the benefits you deserve.
COVID-19 Related Claims
In September of 2020, an important new provision to the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act became law, designed to make it easier and quicker for “essential employees” to obtain full workers’ compensation benefits if they contract Covid-19 as a result of their exposure at work. This is the first Covid-19 specific legislation enacted into workers’ compensation law.
The new law is retroactive to March 9, 2020. It creates a “rebuttable presumption” that any “essential employee” who contracts Covid-19 when performing employment functions while interacting with the public, during the public health emergency declared by Governor Murphy’s previous executive orders, is entitled to New Jersey Workers’ Compensation benefits.
There are three requirements to be entitled to the new protection:
1) The employee must be considered an “essential employee”;
2) The “essential employee must have interacted with the public; and
3) The employee develops Covid-19.
Speak with a Compensation Lawyer for Free
Do you need to seek workers’ compensation benefits for occupational disease in New Jersey? If so, we encourage you to speak with one of the knowledgeable and experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo.
Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo has been consistently recognized as one of New Jersey’s leading firms in the area of workers’ comp. The firm received the highest rating by Martindale-Hubbell – the world’s foremost authority on law firm credentials – in Professional Excellence and Ethical Standards and Legal Ability.
We earn our reputation by helping our clients overcome a limitless number of challenges time and time again. Specifically, many injured employees are thrown curve-balls by their employers and workers’ comp insurance companies that are confusing, perplexing, and unfair. In addition to helping clients face and overcome these challenges, our New Jersey workers’ comp lawyers help injured employees through every step of the process.
To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation, call Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo directly at 888-675-7607 or contact us online today.