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Are workers with occupational diseases denied benefits?

The Pennsylvania Bureau of Workers’ Compensation states that benefits may be available if an individual’s work causes a disease, illness or injury. Yet according to a recent article, workers who suffer illnesses from exposure to toxic chemicals may face obstacles in obtaining benefits. 

Why is occupational disease more difficult to prove as work-related? One reason might be the onset of symptoms, which may develop gradually, months or even years after the initial exposure. In addition, deadly diseases, such as cancers, may also have other causes. Multiple triggers may make it difficult to pinpoint any one source as the cause of a worker’s cancer, or to definitively site on-the-job exposure to toxic substances as the culprit. 

According to the article, workers in this predicament may find themselves in an uphill legal battle. Unfortunately, medical costs continue to mount, in addition to debts created by lost wages. In one example, it took a widow eight years to ultimately prevail on a workers’ compensation claim she filed on her late husband’s behalf. The man had been exposed to chemicals at a flooring factory, which a judge ultimately agreed was the likely cause of the man’s brain damage and compromised health.

Unfortunately, this story is not an isolated incident. According to a 2015 report, an estimated 95 percent of fatal occupational diseases go uncovered by workers’ compensation benefits. Fortunately, a law firm that focuses on workers’ compensation law can help better those odds. By collecting evidence of exposure, consulting with professionals who might be able to testify as medical experts, and preparing a compelling narrative, an attorney can help an injured worker prepare a strong claim.

Source: Slate, “The Deadliest Scourge You Probably Haven’t Heard Of,” Jim Morris, Dec. 24, 2015

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