Occupational Diseases

Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation And Occupational Diseases

The workers' compensation law provides coverage for workers who become disabled as a result of occupational diseases or illnesses contracted from exposure to workplace hazards. The most common occupational disease claims involve exposure to such compounds as asbestos or silica dust, which cause lung injuries or cancers. However, the workers' comp law also includes illness from exposure to hard metals such as nickel, lead and tungsten, as well as mercury, ammonium, phosphorous, certain oils or naphtha, which may cause skin infections, cancers or other diseases, and black lung from coal dust exposure. The act also covers diseases that can be contracted from exposure to other individuals, for instance, public safety employees may be exposed to tuberculosis or hepatitis or other blood-borne illnesses in the course of their work and these illnesses are also covered under the workers' compensation law.

Exposure To Fumes, Dust Or Chemicals

The workers' compensation law also covers illness or disease claims where the injured worker had a pre-existing condition (i.e., asthma, or a latex sensitivity), which is then aggravated by the exposure to fumes, dusts or chemicals in the workplace and results in disability.

Time Limitations In Occupational Disease And Illness Claims

Occupational disease and illness claims have some very specific time limitations. In addition to an injured employee's duty to give notice of the occurrence of the disease within 120 days and the three-year statute of limitations for filing a claim, an occupational disease claim must also cause disability within 300 weeks (approximately 6 years) of the last exposure to the hazardous substance. This means that for many of the disease processes that are only very slowly progressive, it is possible that a claim may not cause disability and be compensable until more than 300 weeks have lapsed and accordingly, these injured workers are not eligible for any benefit. The 300-week limitation also applies to claims for death benefits, in other words, in the event a worker dies as a result of an occupational disease, that death must occur within 300 weeks of the last exposure to the hazard in order for the surviving spouse or dependents to receive death benefits. The rule requiring exposure to have occurred within 300 weeks of disability or death is particularly harsh in the case of certain asbestos-related illnesses, such as lung disease or mesothelioma. These types of illnesses often occur 15 or 20 years after the exposure to asbestos fibers, a fact that results in many claims being denied.

Workers or their surviving spouse or dependents, who are not eligible for payment under the occupational disease provisions of the workers' compensation law may receive compensation by way of a separate civil lawsuit against the manufacturer or supplier of the chemicals or products, which gave rise to their disease. Such civil lawsuits are not subject to a limitation based on the date of last exposure to the hazard because they are claims against third parties (the manufacturers or suppliers of the hazardous materials, chemicals, etc) but are subject only to the two-year statute of limitations, which applies to personal injury claims filed in the civil courts. The lawyers at Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C., are very experienced in dealing with occupational disease claims under both the workers' compensation law and the civil law.

Contact Us

Contact the Pittsburgh workers compensation attorneys at Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C., by calling us at 412-567-1232 in Pittsburgh or Western Pennsylvania, or toll free at 866-466-5789. You may also complete our online contact form. Initial consultations are free and confidential.

For your convenience, we are available to come to your home, hospital or union hall to talk with you and your family about your rights under the Pennsylvania workers' compensation laws.