Workers in certain industries, such as healthcare and construction, are at a higher risk of developing occupational diseases due to exposure to harmful substances or conditions. If you've been diagnosed with an occupational disease due to your job, you may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits in New York.
What is Workers' Compensation?
Workers' compensation is a type of insurance that benefits employees who are injured or become ill due to their job. In New York, virtually all employers are required to carry workers' compensation insurance for all employees, regardless of the size of the business.
The benefits provided by workers' compensation include medical treatment, wages, and disability benefits. If you cannot work due to your occupational disease, workers' compensation can provide you with temporary or permanent disability benefits.
Types of Occupational Diseases Covered by Workers' Compensation
Occupational diseases are illnesses caused by exposure to harmful substances or conditions in the workplace. In New York, workers' compensation covers a wide range of occupational diseases, including:
- Black lung disease
- Occupational hearing loss
- Repetitive stress injuries
To be eligible for workers' compensation benefits for an occupational disease, you must be able to prove that your job caused your illness. This can be a complex and challenging process, so it's important to work with an experienced workers' compensation attorney.
Steps to File a Workers' Compensation Claim for an Occupational Disease
If you've been diagnosed with an occupational disease, follow these steps to file a workers' compensation claim in New York:
- Notify your employer: You must inform your employer of your illness as soon as possible.This is a crucial step in the workers' compensation process, as it alerts your employer to the fact that you've been injured or become ill due to your job.
- Seek medical treatment: It's important to seek medical treatment for your occupational disease right away. A doctor will be able to diagnose your illness, provide treatment, and document your condition for your workers' compensation claim.
- File a claim with the Workers' Compensation Board: You can file a claim with the New York State Workers' Compensation Board by completing a C-3 form. Your workers' compensation attorney can assist you with filling out the form and submitting it to the appropriate parties.
- Attend a hearing: Depending on the specifics of your case, you may be required to attend a hearing with the Workers' Compensation Board. This is an opportunity for you and your attorney to present evidence and arguments supporting your claim.
- Receive a decision: After the hearing, the Workers' Compensation Board will make a decision regarding your claim. If your claim is approved, you'll be entitled to workers' compensation benefits, which will be determined based on the severity of your illness and your ability to work.
Occupational Disease Claims Have Complex Rules
Because occupational diseases occur gradually over long time periods, there is no obvious “date of accident” that would determine things like how long you have to file a claim or notify your employer or how much you can potentially receive in benefits. Instead, the judge will choose a “date of disablement” that serves the same purposes. The judge’s choice of date of disablement may determine whether you filed your claim too late and how much money you can recover. Judges typically use events such as the date a worker permanently stops working due to the occupational disease or the first date when a doctor ties the injury or illness to work activities. The time to file a claim and notify the employer may extend beyond two years after the date of disablement if the injured worker neither knew nor should have known that the injury or illness was work-related until some time after the date of disablement. These are all complicated legal questions that an experienced attorney can navigate for you.
Some Injuries and Illnesses that Occur Over Time May Be Considered Accidents and Not Occupational Diseases
An injury or illness is only considered an occupational disease if it results from a “distinctive feature” of a worker’s job. For example, if an asbestos worker develops asbestosis from years of working with asbestos, it is an occupational disease, because exposure to asbestos is a distinctive feature of that job. On the other hand, if an office worker develops asbestosis from working for years in a particular office that has contained an asbestos hazard during that entire period, it is an accident, because exposure to asbestos is not a distinctive feature of working in an office.
Whether a claim is an accident or an occupational disease will affect the rules that determine your ability to be compensated. Most importantly, if it is an accident, you only have 30 days after the date of accident to notify your employer whereas if it is an occupational disease, you have two years after the date of disablement or sometimes longer to notify your employer.
Filing a workers' compensation claim for an occupational disease can be complex. It's important to work with an experienced workers' compensation attorney who can guide you through the process and ensure that you receive the benefits you're entitled to.
How Schotter Millican, LLP Can Help You
At Schotter Millican, LLP, our experienced attorneys have decades of experience handling workers' compensation claims, including those involving occupational diseases. We understand the complexities of New York's workers' compensation system, and we can help you get the full benefits that you're entitled to.
Contact us today by filling out our form or calling (718) 550-0610 today.