Can You File a Workers’ Compensation Claim For an Occupational Disease?

Posted on March 12, 2021

Most workers’ compensation claims in Los Angeles are for occupational injuries – work-related injuries such as broken bones and strained muscles from accidents or overexertion. Some, however, are for occupational diseases. Determining whether you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits for an occupational disease could help you recover the money you need to pay for medical care and move forward.

What Is an Occupational Disease?

An occupational disease describes any illness you develop as a result of conditions, elements or hazards in your workplace. Any disease you contract primarily as a result of exposure to risk factors related to a work activity is an occupational disease. An occupational disease can have many causes and risk factors that stem from the working environment. There are several examples of common occupational diseases in California.

  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Fertility issues or birth defects
  • Hearing or vision loss
  • Infectious diseases
  • Mesothelioma or asbestosis
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Skin irritation or allergic reactions

Any type of illness or disease could qualify as occupational for a workers’ compensation claim if you developed it due to hazardous conditions at work, such as ill patients at a hospital, an accidental needle stick, chemical spills, dangerous building materials, vapors, dust or loud noises. If you are unsure of whether your disease is occupational, review your case with a Los Angeles workers compensation attorney.

Workers’ Compensation Laws in California

The workers’ compensation program in California allows injured workers and their families to recover financial benefits to cover medical expenses, lost wages and disabilities in qualifying circumstances. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault program, meaning the injured or ill worker does not have to prove fault to receive benefits.

As someone with an occupational disease in California, you would simply need to show that you developed the illness through your occupation or work-related tasks. You would not need to prove that your employer or anyone else was negligent to be eligible for workers’ compensation. A personal injury lawsuit, on the other hand, will require you or your attorney to prove negligence before the courts will award compensation.

The benefits available through the workers’ compensation program include medical care, temporary or permanent disability benefits, supplemental job displacement benefits, and death benefits. In general, the wage benefits available will only cover two-thirds of the lost wages connected to your disease. The benefits you are eligible to receive will depend on the circumstances of your case, as well as the severity of your disease.

An injury lawsuit for an occupational disease could have a better financial outcome than a workers’ compensation claim. A lawsuit based on an occupational disease could pay for 100% of your lost wages, past and future medical bills, pain and suffering, legal fees, and punitive damages. Your employer or another party, such as a product manufacturer, must have been negligent and contributed to your illness to have grounds to file a lawsuit. If you do not have proof of negligence, you will seek benefits through workers’ compensation instead.

What to Do If You Have an Occupational Disease

To receive workers’ compensation, follow the required steps to file a claim. If you find out you have an occupational disease, report it to your employer within 30 days. Obtain copies of all relevant medical records, such as test results. Fill out the Workers’ Compensation Claim Form, which your employer must give you within one day of learning of your occupational disease, and submit it to the Division of Workers’ Compensation. Receive medical care while you wait for your claim to process. The administrator must tell you within a reasonable amount of time whether it denies or accepts your claim.

If the administration does not handle your claim fairly or you need assistance filing a workers’ compensation claim for an occupational disease, contact an attorney in LA right away. 

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