When people think about workers’ compensation benefits, they equate them with workplace accidents alone. But work comp is more than just suffering a physical injury at work. It involves incurring illnesses due to hazardous conditions at work and other circumstances.
An occupational disease is as severe as an injury resulting from an accident. It can affect every aspect of a person’s life, including their ability to keep working. Unfortunately, most people with occupational illnesses are not aware of it. When they eventually discover and demand workers’ compensation, their employer might refute their claim because the illness is not compensable or work-related.
This article looks at North Carolina’s law on compensable occupational diseases and getting work comp benefits. If you suspect that your illness is work-related, contact a Charlotte workers’ compensation lawyer immediately. Our lawyers will help you get the evidence to prove your claim and get your deserved benefits.
What Is an Occupational Disease in North Carolina?
Under North Carolina law, an occupational disease is a condition or illness that develops due to risk factors related to the workplace environment or actions required by work. The state under North Carolina Statute 97-53 lists the following as recognized occupational diseases:
- Arsenic poisoning
- Brass poisoning
- Manganese poisoning
- Zinc poisoning
- Mercury poisoning
- Phosphorus poisoning
- Lead poisoning provided the employee was exposed to the hazard of lead poisoning for at least 30 days in the preceding 12 months. It provides further that only the employer in whose employment the employee was last injuriously exposed shall be liable.
- Undulant fever
- Loss of hearing resulting from harmful noise in the employment
- Bone felon resulting from constant or intermittent pressure in the employment
- Blisters due to intermittent pressure in the employment, etc.
The list above is not exhaustive, but it shows the statute is quite comprehensive in covering occupational diseases. The law also allows other conditions to qualify as occupational diseases if they meet specific criteria. Under provision 13, the criteria include:
- Diseases other than a hearing loss covered in the subdivision of Statute 97-53
- Illnesses caused by conditions that are the characteristics of or peculiar to a particular trade, occupation, or employment
- The exclusion of all ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is equally exposed outside of the employment
An example of an illness that would qualify under the above provision is carpal tunnel syndrome. However, it’s best to let a workers’ compensation lawyer in North Carolina explain what qualifies and what doesn’t.
How Do You Claim for Occupational Diseases in North Carolina?
Claiming workers’ compensation for an occupational disease is the same as a workplace accident injury. However, it has a few exceptions. Firstly, unlike an accidental injury, an occupational disease is not a random act. Instead, it results from long-term exposure to a substance like asbestos or the repetition of a particular task. The latter is a repetitive injury.
Secondly, North Carolina law gives injured workers 30 days to report a work accident injury to their employer. They must do this irrespective of whether the injury was minor or severe. If the employer fails to file the report within this time frame, it jeopardizes their work comp claim.
For occupational diseases, which develop over time, the employee must report their illness to their employer within 30 days of learning they suffer an occupational disease and get informed that the cause is work-related. Additionally, the time starts counting to file a workers’ compensation claim at this time. The North Carolina Statute of Limitations provides two years to file work comp claims.
Must I Prove That My Work Caused My Occupational Disease?
It all depends on the facts and circumstances of your case. North Carolina law provides that all occupational disease claims must prove “causation.” It means that you don’t have to show that your job was the sole cause of your illness but that it significantly contributed to it.
So, the question is whether or not your injury would have gotten to a disabling or life-altering stage if not for the constant exposure to a work hazard. To prove causation, you need medical evidence from your physician and an excellent Charlotte work comp attorney.
Furthermore, you only need to prove causation if your illness falls under those captured by the statute above. If not, you’ll have to show that your job placed you at an increased risk greater than the one faced by the general public. So, you need evidence and a work comp lawyer.
Charlotte Workers’ Comp Lawyers Can Help You!
If you suffer an occupational disease, our workers’ compensation attorneys in Charlotte, N.C., are your best bet on getting the benefits you deserve. We place your interest above everything, so call us today for a free case review.