An occupational disease is a disease, illness, or other long-term health condition that is acquired in the course of a particular trade, occupation, process, or employment in which the employee is exposed to such disease.
Georgia workers’ compensation law addresses more than just acute injuries at work. It also provides compensation for diseases and illness that you acquired on the job. These are commonly known as “occupational diseases.”
How Do I Prove That My Condition Is Really an Occupational Disease?
Under Georgia law, an occupational disease is part of the workers’ compensation system system, and it must meet the following qualifications:
- There’s a direct, causal connection between the work conditions and the disease;
- The disease only came about after exposure to something as part of your employment;
- The disease isn’t one that you would have been exposed to outside of employment;
- The condition isn’t an ordinary one to which the general public is exposed; and
- The disease must have had its origin from the employment and “flowed from that source as a natural consequence.”
Georgia law states explicitly that specific problems that might otherwise fall under this definition aren’t occupational diseases, including:
- Loss of hearing (partial)
- Psychiatric and psychological issues
- Heart and vascular diseases
These issues can, however, arise as a result of some other occupational disease (when they are a symptom of the disease, for example).
What Are Some Examples of Occupational Diseases in Georgia?
Some of the most common examples of occupational diseases are the result of exposure to asbestosis (causing respiratory illnesses) and some skin disorders. Other potential occupational illnesses include:
- Lead poisoning
- Neurological disorders
- Chemical poisoning
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Radiation illnesses
What Benefits Are Available for Occupational Diseases?
The benefits available for occupational diseases include the same types of compensation that are available in work injury cases. These include medical care, lost wages, and other vocational-related benefits. For those with severe illnesses, however, medical care could be the most significant benefit available.
Because both employers and insurance companies may have an incentive to downplay these benefits, it helps to speak to a workers compensation lawyer after an injury.
How Are Occupational Diseases Different From Traditional Work Injuries?
In the average work injury, there’s a specific event that triggers the need for medical care. If you drop a piece of equipment on your foot, it’s clear when your injury started. You cannot say the same thing about many occupational diseases. These disorders could take a significant amount of time to develop, and you may not realize what caused them until long after you were exposed to whatever caused your disease.
Once you realize that there may be a relationship between your disease and your working life, you need to talk to an attorney right away to help you with your claim. You don’t want to forfeit your claim simply because you didn’t act quickly. You also shouldn’t assume that it’s too late to file. The clock may start ticking once you realize there was a connection between your illness and your job.
Even with occupational disease claims, you must still inform your employer about your illness and your employer should file a claim with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation as required by law.
How Do Pre-existing Conditions Affect Occupational Disease Claims in Georgia?
You may be concerned about starting a workers’ compensation claim because you had a pre-existing health condition that may have also contributed to your disease. You shouldn’t be. Georgia law takes this type of situation into account when determining whether you should get benefits. Specifically, if exposure to a work condition makes your pre-existing condition worse, you may be able to get benefits for the shortened amount of time that it took to get to the point of progression of the disease where you are today.
Asthma is a good example. Imagine you had asthma before you started a job. As part of your occupation, you are regularly exposed to hazardous chemicals. If that exposure makes your asthma worse, then you likely have an occupational disease claim. You should never hide the fact that that condition before you started working—that could mean that you are committing workers’ compensation fraud, which is illegal. Instead, be upfront and honest about your condition before you started work and how your health has changed since being exposed to the chemicals.
If you are unsure whether you have a workers’ compensation claim for an occupational disease, talk to the team at John Foy & Associates. We can help you analyze your case and get you to the right medical professionals to determine what caused your condition. Don’t wait to get the process started. Fill out the form to your right, or call us at 404-400-4000 to get your FREE consultation today.