Were you or a loved one diagnosed with a work-related illness or health condition?
Workers’ compensation may provide justice and financial security for your family. Let our Macon lawyers examine your claim and fight for your rights.
577 Mulberry St, Suite 600
Macon, GA 31201-8242
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Not all compensable work-related injuries are sudden and traumatic—some arise gradually over months and years.
In Georgia, being eligible for workers’ compensation does NOT require a specific “event” that caused an injury. Many claims involve occupational diseases from toxic exposure or repetitive tasks. The effects of dangerous working conditions are often severe, resulting in chronic pain and long-term disability. Sometimes, a job-related health condition is even deadly.
At Westmoreland, Patterson, Moseley & Hinson, our workers’ compensation attorneys possess the experience and skills needed to secure maximum benefits for our clients. From the initial free consultation to appealing a denied claim, we provide dedicated advocacy and protect the rights of injured workers throughout Georgia.
What type of occupational disease do you have?
Hazardous workplaces exist where employees are exposed to irritants, pathogens, toxins and unsafe working conditions in their work environment. Over time, these dangerous working conditions may have caused employees to develop debilitating disorders and diseases. An occupational illness may be caused by new exposure to hazards in the workplace or contribute to a preexisting condition.
Some of the most common examples of occupational diseases, illnesses and disorders include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Lower back disorders
- Pulmonary fibrosis
- Hearing loss
- Vision loss (blindness)
- Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)
- Reproductive infertility
- Black lung disease
- Brown lung disease
- Lead poisoning
- Mercury poisoning
- Cancer (skin, lung, etc.)
- Skin infections
- Infectious diseases
- Contact dermatitis
- Skin inflammations
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Generally speaking, psychiatric and psychological problems, heart and vascular diseases (heart attack), and partial loss of hearing due to excessive noise are NOT considered an occupational disease, unless they arise from another condition that is accepted in Georgia as an occupational disease.
Being hurt on the job can cause lasting pain or permanent disability. How long you will be out of work and how you will care for your family and pay your bills can cause distress for yourself and your loved ones.
Occupational disease statistics
- Occupational hearing loss is the most common occupational disease in the United States. More than 30 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise, and an additional 9 million are at risk from other traumatic agents.
- Nearly 30 percent of COPD and adult asthma may be attributable to occupational exposure. Occupational asthma is now the most frequent occupational respiratory disease diagnosis—affecting more than 20 million U.S. workers.
- Allergic and irritant dermatitis (contact dermatitis) accounts for 15 to 20 percent of all reported occupational diseases—the second most common type of occupational disease. One study showed that 75 percent of patients with occupational contact dermatitis developed a chronic skin disease.
- In the United States, back disorders account for 27 percent of all nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work. The average cost of a workers’ compensation claim for a low back disorder was $8,300 according to one study, which is more than twice the average cost of other claims.
- More than $2 billion in workers’ compensation costs are spent annually on musculoskeletal disorders.
What are the common causes of work-related disease?
Occupational illnesses and disorders can arise from many different factors. For example, employees whose job requires performing a similar task several times throughout their workdays often develop repetitive stress injuries that include carpal tunnel or cervical strain.
Other common causes of work-related diseases include:
- Exposure to toxic chemicals and hazardous materials
- Unsafe working conditions
- Poorly ventilated workspaces
- Loud environments with insufficient protective equipment
- Hard physical labor
- Severe weather conditions
- Contact with allergens
Occupational diseases and Georgia workers’ compensation law
Most employers in Georgia with 3 or more full or part-time employees are required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance. If you are eligible for workers’ compensation for a job-related injury or occupational disease, you should receive benefits for:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages (temporary disability while you recover)
- Disability (permanent disability if you’re never able to fully recover)
- Funeral and burial expenses (if the employee dies from a work-related injury or illness)
However, not all claims are so straightforward, and there are some prerequisites to compensation—particularly when it comes to occupational disease claims.
According to Georgia law (O.C.G.A. 34-9-281:
(a) Where the employer and employee are subject to this chapter, the disablement or death of an employee resulting from an occupational disease shall be treated as the occurrence of an injury by accident; and the employee or, in the case of his or her death, the employee’s dependents shall be entitled to compensation as provided by this chapter. The practice and procedure prescribed in this chapter shall apply to all the proceedings under this article except as otherwise provided.
(b) Except as otherwise provided in this Code section, an employer shall be liable for compensation under this article only where:
(1) The disease arose out of and in the course of the employment in which the employee was engaged under such employer, was contracted while the employee was so engaged, and has resulted from a hazard characteristic of the employment in excess of the hazards of such disease attending employment in general; and
(2) The claim for disablement is filed within one year after the date the employee knew or, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have known of the disablement and its relationship to the employment; but in no event shall the claim for disablement be filed in excess of seven years after the last injurious exposure to the hazard of such disease in such employment; provided, however, that an employee with asbestosis or mesothelioma related to exposure to asbestos shall have one year from the date of first disablement after diagnosis of such disease to file a claim for disablement. In cases of death where the cause of action was not barred during the employee’s life, the claim must be filed within one year of the date of death.
This law also sets a deadline, known as the “statute of limitations.” Employees only have 1 year from when they first discover (or reasonably should have known about) their condition to file a disability or workers’ comp claim with their employer. Excepting cases of asbestosis exposure or mesothelioma, no occupational disease claim may be filed if the last exposure to the hazard or conditions that caused the disease occurred more than 7 years ago.
In tragic cases where an occupational disease or condition resulted in the death of a loved one, the surviving spouse or dependents must file a workers’ compensation death claim within 1 year.
How to prove that a disease is “work-related”
Georgia law (O.C.G.A. 34-9-280) also requires employers to prove the following 5 elements of an occupational disease claim to be eligible for compensation:
- A direct causal connection between the conditions under which the work is performed and the disease;
- That the disease followed as a natural incident of exposure by reason of the employment;
- That the disease is not of a character to which the employee may have had substantial exposure outside of the employment;
- That the disease is not an ordinary disease of life to which the general public is exposed;
- That the disease must appear to have had its origin in a risk connected with the employment and to have flowed from that source as a natural consequence.
How to file an occupational disease workers’ comp claim in Georgia
The steps you take (or fail to take) when trying to get compensation for a work-related illness or health condition can make or break your claim. If you suspect that you are suffering from an occupational disease, you should follow these 5 steps:
- Notify your employer that you wish to see a company-approved doctor. If your employer doesn’t give you a list of authorized physicians, you can choose your own doctor.
- Schedule a medical checkup and attend the exam. Answer any questions the doctor asks you as honestly and accurately as possible. If you aren’t satisfied with the doctor’s analysis, you can always visit another doctor for a second opinion.
- File a workers’ compensation claim with your employer if the condition is classified as an occupational disease. You or your employer must file Form WC-1 (Employer’s First Report of Injury or Occupational Disease) and submit it to the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
- Save all medical documents, insurance letters and other relevant information that pertains to your occupational disease claim.
- If you haven’t already, reach out to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney near you to discuss your case and learn more about your legal options. Even if you have a good relationship with your employer, don’t make the mistake of thinking they will necessarily look after your best interests. Consult with a trusted attorney if you have questions about the process.
“Great staff. Very professional and knowledgeable. Staff went out of their way to accommodate us in every way possible. Made the whole process less painful. They made sure we understood everything that was going on and would answer any questions a hundred times over if needed.”
The resources needed to win
Unlike some work injury attorneys who settle all of their cases, we are not afraid to appeal a denied claim if needed. Our firm has the resources needed to thoroughly prepare, try and win complicated cases.
We are dedicated to doing everything legally and ethically possible to obtain the best results for our injured clients. Hard work and dedication have allowed us to recover millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for our clients in workers’ compensation and personal injury claims.
Let us help you secure justice and compensation for your work-related condition
Occupational disease claims are a complex area of workers’ compensation law. The burden of proof is extremely high, requiring seasoned legal counsel at your side. Here at the law firm of Westmoreland, Patterson, Moseley & Hinson, we can conduct in-depth investigations to find a correlation between the conditions at your place of work and the disease you are suffering from.
If you are suffering from a disease that you believe was caused by your workplace environment, contact us for your free consultation. From our offices in Macon, Albany and Warner Robins, we help injured workers throughout Georgia. Don’t settle for less, get more.