Many people associate workers' compensation coverage with sudden accidental injuries like those that occur in industrial environments. Workers' compensation also covers occupational illnesses that might take some time to become apparent. Read on to find out what affected workers need to know about working in a toxic environment and getting benefits.
Is Your Workplace Toxic?
Being suddenly exposed to a toxic workplace substance is bad enough, but prolonged exposure could cause permanent damage. Some toxic substances can cause injuries when they come into contact with a workers' skin or eyes, but one form of harm can be sneaky and insidious. Tiny inhaled particles of toxic substances may lodge in a worker's lungs and a slow but deadly process may be triggered. To name just a few substances that can wreak havoc:
- Coal dust
The body's immune response is to wall off the toxic substance by building scar tissue around it. That, unfortunately, can slowly cut off the worker's ability to breathe in and out.
Coping With COPD
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) can be caused by many things but some are entirely work-related. Not being able to take air in and out creates problems that can affect the body's systems in a devastating manner. To say that you can no longer perform the tasks of your job is an understatement. COPD has no cure and many people pass away from that or heart or kidney diseases brought on by the disease.
Take Action and Be Covered
As soon as you notice problems breathing, coughing, tiredness, or other symptoms, see a doctor and have your COPD officially diagnosed. Your doctor may perform breathing tests that measure oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. Chest X-rays may also be needed. Affected workers can be treated with medication and oxygen to make things more comfortable but your working days are likely over. Do the following to preserve your chances of workers' compensation coverage:
- Don't delay in seeking medical treatment. Doing so could make it appear that your COPD is not serious enough.
- Let your direct supervisor know about your COPD right away and see to it that a claim is filed with your employer's workers' compensation insurer.
- If you find yourself with a denied claim for any reason, speak to a workers' compensation lawyer about your case. It's not unusual for an insurer to deny claims and blame work-related medical conditions on outside issues.
- You may be entitled to medical expense payments along with a partial salary while you are out of work. Eventually, you may be offered a lump-sum settlement. Be sure to consult with an attorney before you agree to a settlement.
Contact a workers compensation attorney for more information.