Occupational Disease Claims for Workers’ Compensation in NC
Most people only think of workplace injuries as coming from accidents. Something unexpected that happens. It’s obvious that you’re hurt. But there’s another workplace injury that can be just as harmful – if not more. An occupational disease can affect every aspect of your life, including your lifespan. And the tricky thing is that you might not even know it’s happening.
What Is an Occupational Disease in North Carolina?
An occupational disease is a condition or illness that develops as a result of risk factors related to workplace environment or the actions required by work. That said, the state of North Carolina outlines what constitutes an occupational disease by statute.
According to North Carolina statute 97-53, there is a list of officially recognized occupational diseases:
- Arsenic poisoning.
- Brass poisoning.
- Zinc poisoning.
- Manganese poisoning.
- Lead poisoning. “Provided the employee shall have been exposed to the hazard of lead poisoning for at least 30 days in the preceding 12 months’ period; and, provided further, only the employer in whose employment such employee was last injuriously exposed shall be liable.”
- Mercury poisoning.
- Phosphorus poisoning.
- Poisoning by carbon bisulphide, menthanol, naphtha or volatile halogenated hydrocarbons.
- Chrome ulceration.
- Compressed-air illness.
- Poisoning by benzol, or by nitro and amido derivatives of benzol (dinitrolbenzol, anilin, and others).
- See below
- Epitheliomatous cancer or ulceration of the skin or of the corneal surface of the eye due to tar, pitch, bitumen, mineral oil, or paraffin, or any compound, product, or residue of any of these substances.
- Radium poisoning or disability or death due to “radioactive properties of substances or to roentgen rays, X rays or exposure to any other source of radiation; provided, however, that the disease under this subdivision shall be deemed to have occurred on the date that disability or death shall occur by reason of such disease.”
- Blisters due to use of tools or appliances in the employment.
- Bursitis due to intermittent pressure in the employment.
- Miner’s nystagmus.
- Bone felon due to constant or intermittent pressure in employment.
- Synovitis, caused by trauma in employment.
- Tenosynovitis, caused by trauma in employment.
- Carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Poisoning by sulphuric, hydrochloric or hydrofluoric acid.
- Undulant fever.
- Loss of hearing caused by harmful noise in the employment. (There are many rules that go along with this provision.)
- Infection with smallpox, infection with vaccinia, or any adverse medical reaction when the infection or adverse reaction is due to the employee receiving in-employment vaccination.
That’s a very specific list, drawn directly from the statute. Additionally, there is a provision that allows other conditions to qualify if they meet certain criteria:
- “Any disease other than hearing loss covered in another subdivision of this section, which is proven to be due to causes and conditions which are characteristic of and peculiar to a particular trade, occupation or employment, but excluding all ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is equally exposed outside of the employment.” – North Carolina statute 97-53
A common example of a claim under provision 13 would be carpal tunnel syndrome. While it is not specifically named in the statute, it may qualify.
How Do I Claim an Occupational Disease in North Carolina for Workers’ Compensation?
Making a workers’ compensation claim for an occupational disease is the same as any other claim, with a few exceptions.
First, a workplace injury is generally an “injury by accident.” An occupational disease is not caused by a particular incident, but by exposure to a substance (like asbestos) or repetitive injury, such as blisters or carpal tunnel syndrome.
Second, in the case of workplace accidents, North Carolina law generally gives workers 30 days to report an injury to their employers, no matter how minor. Failure to report within this time period means any case for workers’ compensation may be automatically dismissed. In the case of occupational diseases, which develop over time, the worker must typically give written notice to their employer within 30 days of learning that they suffer from an occupational disease and are informed of the work-related cause of the disease.
According to North Carolina statute 97-58, this is also generally when the clock starts for the two year statute of limitations to file a workers’ compensation occupational disease claim.
What Do I Have to Prove in Order to Be Compensated for My Occupational Disease?
It depends. All occupational disease claims in North Carolina must prove “causation” – not that your job was necessarily the sole reason you got the disease, but that it “significantly contributed” to your developing the disease. One way to think of the question is whether or not you would have developed your condition to the extent that it was disabling without the exposure from your job. Proving causation will almost always require medical evidence, which usually includes the testimony of a physician.
If your occupational disease is listed above (aside from #13) – which is taken from North Carolina General Statute 97-53 – causation is generally all you need. If your work disease is NOT specifically listed in the statute, you will also have to prove that your job placed you at increased risk for the disease versus the public at large. Once again, you’ll need evidence to prove this. That’s usually from a medical expert, but could be from another field depending on the specifics of your condition.
An occupational disease lawyer can help you make sense of the law and your rights.
What Could I Get as Compensation for My Occupational Disease?
Workers’ compensation benefits in North Carolina are highly specific. According to North Carolina General statute 97-52:
Disablement or death of an employee resulting from an occupational disease described in G.S. 97-53 shall be treated as the happening of an injury by accident within the meaning of the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act and the procedure and practice and compensation and other benefits provided by said act shall apply in all such cases except as hereinafter otherwise provided.
Contact a Firm With North Carolina State Bar Board Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialists
At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we have a dedicated team who focuses on workers’ compensation law, including several North Carolina State Bar Board Certified Specialists in Workers’ Compensation. These attorneys have focused their practice on helping injured workers through the often complex and confusing workers’ compensation system.
Occupational disease claims can be some of the more challenging and complicated cases in workers’ compensation law. Let an experienced, qualified attorney represent you and fight to protect your rights! Call us any time, 24/7 at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us online for a free case evaluation. We’re ready to fight for your best interests. Tell them you mean business.