In some cases, yes, you could be eligible. Workers’ compensation provides no-fault insurance coverage of medical expenses and lost wages resulting from the accidental work-related injuries and occupational illnesses of most SC employees. To qualify for workers’ comp benefits, you must prove that you’ve been hurt or become sick in the course and scope of doing your job.
Showing evidence of a work-related injury immediately after the accident that caused it can be relatively easy since the accident and injury are apt to occur simultaneously, often in the presence of witnesses. Occupational illnesses, however, can develop over time from workplace conditions or repetitive activities, so proving your illness is work-related might be more difficult. In fact, workers’ comp claims based on illness are denied by employers’ insurance companies five times more frequently than accidental injury claims are. This is why the services of an attorney can be helpful.
Occupational illnesses covered by workers’ comp must arise directly and naturally from specific hazards you encounter in the course of doing your job. Covered illnesses include cancer, skin disease, and musculoskeletal damage caused by biological, chemical, and physical agents. For example:
- Cancer resulting from exposure to coal tar and benzene
- Carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive-motion disorders
- Poisoning, skin rashes, dermatitis, blisters, and eczema from contact with pesticides, gases, metals, and solvents
- Hearing loss from ongoing noise or vibration
- Reduced vision due to optical radiation
- Respiratory illnesses like asbestosis, asthma, obstructive bronchitis, and mesothelioma from inhaling toxic chemicals and other materials
Diseases and conditions that are not specific to your employment are not covered by workers’ comp, for example:
- Contagious diseases for which the risk is the same inside or outside the workplace
- Sicknesses for which the public in general is equally at risk (flu, cold, covid)
- Conditions caused by weather or climatic circumstances
- Chronic joint disease (arthritis, bursitis)
- Circulatory, pulmonary, or cardiac issues resulting from gaseous pressure or ingestion of foreign material
In order to qualify for benefits, you must prove the causal connection between your job and your illness by a preponderance of the evidence.
Workplaces and Jobs in Which Occupational Illnesses Are Most Common
The industries in which compensable occupational illnesses most often arise include factory work, construction, auto repair, and healthcare. Welders, builders, miners, drillers, and assembly line workers are among the most likely to contract an illness covered by workers’ comp. Workplaces in which most occupational illness claims arise include power plants, textile mills, shipyards, paper mills, and food and beverage processing operations.
Proving Your Occupational Illness Is Work-Related
Because previous workers’ comp decisions over the years have established connections between certain occupational illnesses and workplace activities or conditions, new claims involving such illnesses are easier to prove than some others. For example, a number of industrial jobs have already been shown to cause mesothelioma and asbestosis. That means it’s not as hard for you to prove either of these conditions arose from your work as it was for those who went before you.
Presenting evidence to prove your condition was caused by your job can be harder with some other diseases that are less common and not already associated with your type of work. In such cases, you can strengthen your claim by documenting the conditions of your workplace and your daily work-related activities, proving your exposure to chemicals or environmental conditions that have led to your illness, and listing in detail your repeated physical on-the-job activities. You also need a medical diagnosis of your disease and, if possible, a statement from a doctor that your work conditions and activities were factors in causing or aggravating your illness. If you can show statistics proving that other workers in positions and environments similar to yours have developed similar illnesses, it can be very helpful to your claim.
Have You Been Injured On The Job?
If you've been hurt at your job you can speak with a workers' compensation lawyer. Please contact us online or call our Charleston, South Carolina office directly at 843.488.2359 to schedule your consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our Conway, Florence, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach or North Charleston office locations.