Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Diseases in South Carolina
Workers’ compensation insurance is designed to provide workers with medical treatment and disability payments for injuries and illnesses that are work-related. And it is the responsibility of the employee to prove that the injury or illness was related to work. While it can be straightforward to prove that an eye injury resulted from an accident involving faulty equipment or a lack of protective measures and gear, it can be significantly more difficult to demonstrate how a lung condition was caused or aggravated by work – especially if the work occurred weeks, months, or even years ago.
To receive workers’ compensation benefits in South Carolina, you must prove that there was:
- a link between your job and the disease you contracted.
- an increased risk of you contracting that disease more than the general public.
Unfortunately, a study by Health Affairs claims that “60% of disease claims are initially denied, as compared with 10% for accidents, placing a heavy burden on the ill workers who must establish the connection between workplace exposure and disease.” The study goes on to estimate that only 5% of occupational diseases may be covered by workers’ comp.
An experienced workers’ comp attorney can help you try to prove that you have an occupational disease and may deserve workers’ compensation benefits.
What Are Occupational Diseases?
Occupational diseases are also called industrial diseases, occupational illnesses, and workplace illnesses. The World Health Organization defines an occupational disease as “any disease contracted primarily as a result of an exposure to risk factors arising from work activity.” In South Carolina, the law states that in occupational disease claims, the worker must establish that the illness came “directly and naturally from exposure in this State to the hazards peculiar to the particular employment by a preponderance of evidence.”
Many occupational diseases can potentially be covered under workers’ compensation. The claims process is similar to filing a claim if you fell on the job and injured your back. If your claim is successful, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance should cover medical care and a portion of your lost income.1
Types of Occupational Diseases Covered under Workers’ Comp
So, what are actual examples of occupation diseases covered under workers’ comp? Most people have heard of black lung disease and mesothelioma – two debilitating illnesses that have sickened, and even killed, many employees. But there are many other workplace illnesses that are also potentially covered under workers’ comp.
The International Labour Organization created a list of internationally recognized occupational diseases, from illnesses caused by chemical, physical, and biological agents to respiratory and skin diseases, musculoskeletal disorders, and occupational cancer.
While each workers’ compensation case is unique, the following list includes several types of occupational diseases generally covered by workers’ comp.
- Diseases from exposure to certain physical agents – hearing loss caused by noise, disorders caused by extreme vibrations, and vision loss caused by optical radiations
- Diseases from exposure to toxic chemicals – poisoning by metals, gases, solvents, pesticides, and chemicals
- Diseases from exposure to certain biological agents – TB, tetanus, and hepatitis
- Respiratory diseases – asbestosis, mesothelioma, chronic obstructive bronchitis, and industrial asthma
- Skin diseases – rashes, eczema, friction blisters, and industrial dermatitis
- Musculoskeletal disorders – caused by repetitive movements such as carpal tunnel syndrome
- Mental and behavioral disorders – post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Cancer – caused by exposure to agents such as benzene and coal tars
If you are suffering from one of these types of illnesses and think that your workplace caused it, call us at 1-866-900-7078 for a free and confidential case evaluation. In South Carolina, your employer is almost always required to have workers’ comp insurance if they have 4 or more employees, and you may be entitled to benefits for the harms and losses you have suffered.
Is Mesothelioma an Occupational Cancer?
Yes, mesothelioma is one of the more widely-known occupational diseases. Mesothelioma occurs due to exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that resists exposure to fire, sound, water, and chemicals that was commonly used in the construction materials of buildings and vehicles. Asbestos is composed of millions of fibers which when inhaled or swallowed can lead to mesothelioma, a cancer that can be found in the lining that protects many organs in the body, such as the lungs.
Several manufacturers were aware of the link between asbestos and mesothelioma but deliberately hid the info and continued to allow their workers to be exposed to the element. In the late seventies, the decade-long secret was finally revealed and victims began taking action.
Tip: If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, talk to a product liability attorney who has experience in helping clients understand and deal with the timelines and procedures associated with mesothelioma claims.
Who Is at Risk for Developing an Occupational Disease?
While every business potentially carries some risk of its employees suffering from a workplace illness, the development of industrial diseases is most commonly seen in the auto repair, healthcare, manufacturing, construction, and factory work industries. Workers can fall ill from exposure to toxic chemicals, gases, and extreme temperatures, as well as from repetitive motions and workplace stress.
The type of work environment, as well as the type of occupation, play a role in occupational illnesses.
Food & beverage processing plants
Assembly line workers
It is important for employees to document their working conditions and demonstrate the elements that they believe caused an occupational disease. If you feel that your job has made you ill, talk to an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer. A lawyer can be your advocate and try to help you build a strong case towards getting the workers’ comp benefits to which you may be entitled.
Am I Eligible for Benefits from the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICP)?
Possibly. The federal government provides medical and other benefits to current or former employees of the Department of Energy who have contracted cancer or other diseases as a result of exposure to radiation, beryllium, or silica through the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program. As of 2020, there are seven operating nuclear reactors at four nuclear power plants in South Carolina.
Can I Afford A Lawyer for my Occupational Disease Case?
The Law Offices of James Scott Farrin works on a contingency fee arrangement2 which means that the attorney’s fee is based on a percentage of the gross recovery. While a case may have fees and costs associated with it, there is no hourly or flat fee charged by the firm. Simply put, if you do not recover compensation from your claim, there is no attorney’s fee. This allows the firm to bear the burden of investigating and pursuing your claim, which allows you to focus on your well-being.
Contact Our Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
Workers’ compensation law can be highly complicated. Jobs that expose workers to hazardous materials or require employees to potentially strain their bodies every day can lead to an occupational disease and can take months or even years to develop. Special rules and laws govern different kinds of occupational illnesses, and claim denials are common. Sometimes it can be hard to know when it makes sense to keep fighting.
Give the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin a call at 1-866-900-7078 for a free evaluation of your occupational disease case. If we think you have a claim, we’ll help you fight for the maximum benefits that you may be entitled to. Contact us today.