Most people understand that workers' compensation will pay for on-the-job injuries caused by accidents, but what about disease? Does workers' compensation cover occupational diseases in SC?
Occupational illnesses are covered by workers' comp in SC - long-term exposure to harmful chemicals and other substances can cause temporary or permanent disability and can shorten your life expectancy. Who should be responsible for that if not your employer?
The disease must meet the definition of an occupational disease, however - most ordinary illnesses are not covered by workers' comp in SC. You will have to prove through medical evidence that you have an illness that was caused by your employment and that it was not caused by another source...
What do you need to know to get workers' compensation for an occupational disease in SC?
Does Workers' Compensation Cover Occupational Diseases in SC?
Let's take a look at how SC law defines occupational disease, some of the more common occupational diseases that are covered, the jobs that have the most risk of occupational diseases, and how to prove that your disease was caused by conditions on your job.
What is an Occupational Disease in SC?
SC Code of Laws Section 42-11-10 defines occupational disease as a disease that arises from your employment, that is specific to your type of employment, and that is not ordinary for your type of employment:
"Occupational disease" means a disease arising out of and in the course of employment that is due to hazards in excess of those ordinarily incident to employment and is peculiar to the occupation in which the employee is engaged. A disease is considered an occupational disease only if caused by a hazard recognized as peculiar to a particular trade, process, occupation, or employment as a direct result of continuous exposure to the normal working conditions of that particular trade, process, occupation, or employment. In a claim for an occupational disease, the employee shall establish that the occupational disease arose directly and naturally from exposure in this State to the hazards peculiar to the particular employment by a preponderance of the evidence.
You, the injured worker, have the burden of proving that the disease was caused by hazards on your job and did not come from another source.
Section 42-11-10 also excludes certain types of diseases from the definition of occupation disease including diseases that are caused by exposure to outdoor weather, contagious diseases, and chronic skeletal joint diseases:
No disease shall be considered an occupational disease when it:
(1) does not result directly and naturally from exposure in this State to the hazards peculiar to the particular employment;
(2) results from exposure to outside climatic conditions;
(3) is a contagious disease resulting from exposure to fellow employees or from a hazard to which the workman would have been equally exposed outside of his employment;
(4) is one of the ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is equally exposed, unless such disease follows as a complication and a natural incident of an occupational disease or unless there is continuous exposure peculiar to the occupation itself which makes such disease a hazard inherent in such occupation;
(5) is any disease of the cardiac, pulmonary, or circulatory system not resulting directly from abnormal external gaseous pressure exerted upon the body or the natural entrance into the body through the skin or natural orifices thereof of foreign organic or inorganic matter under circumstances peculiar to the employment and the processes utilized therein; or
(6) is any chronic disease of the skeletal joints.
These exclusions attempt to eliminate the types of diseases that would be difficult if not impossible to prove were caused by your employment - a communicable disease, for example, could have been contracted on the job, but it also could have been contracted in the shopping mall or the movie theater...
What Types of Jobs are Most Likely to Result in an Occupational Disease?
Some jobs have a greater risk of occupational disease than others. Any job where you are exposed to hazardous chemicals, dust particles, loud noises, or fumes could result in an occupational illness that workers' compensation would cover.
- Jobs that involve mining, drilling, or blasting may expose workers to dust or fumes that can cause cancer, COPD, or black lung disease. Exposure to loud noises can cause permanent hearing loss, tinnitus, or other damage to your hearing.
- Construction workers may also be exposed to harmful dust, asbestos, fumes, or loud noises on the job.
- Railroad workers, farm workers, miners, and many other occupations may be exposed to high levels of diesel fumes that can result in heart or lung damage.
- Welders may be exposed to a range of harmful fumes that can cause lung disease and different types of cancer.
What are Some Examples of Occupational Diseases that are Covered by Workers' Compensation in SC?
Examples of occupational diseases that may fall within SC's statutory definition include:
- Cancers of all types;
- Black lung disease;
- Asbestosis or mesothelioma;
- Parkinson's disease;
- Farmer's lung;
- Silo filler's disease;
- Flock worker's lung;
- Hearing loss or tinnitus; or
- Other heart or respiratory diseases.
How do I Prove that I Have an Occupational Disease?
When you file a workers' comp claim for an occupational disease, your employer or their workers' compensation insurance company will attempt to deny your claim if there is a possibility that your disease does not meet the statutory definition or that your disease was caused by something other than your employment.
You must present medical evidence to establish your claim - that means an opinion or testimony from your medical expert that, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, you are suffering from an illness caused by your employment. Medical evidence may also include "documents, records, or other material that is offered by a licensed health care provider."
Your Myrtle Beach workers' compensation attorney on the Axelrod team will help you to determine whether your illness is covered by workers' comp, file your claim, gather the evidence you will need to prove your claim, represent you at your workers' comp hearing, and file any necessary appeals.