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Tillman & Associates, Attorneys at Law

Defining an "occupational disease"

While many employees are aware that they are entitled to worker's compensation when an on the job accident occurs, some Georgia workers may not know that they can also receive benefits when an illness develops because of a person's work conditions. An individual might suffer from an occupational disease when an infection or illness arises due to circumstances an employee encounters largely at work and not elsewhere.

An occupational disease that requires medical attention might include a mental disorder, physical disorders that worsen with stress, or an illness caused by vapors, radiation, gases, fumes, dust or other substances that were inhaled, touched or absorbed or an event that caused physical disability. If an employee dies because of an occupational disease, the worker's family can seek death benefits.

Since working conditions need to be the main factor that led to a disease, employees may need to prove that a mental disorder was caused by work related factors. To receive workers' compensation, an employee must provide a verifiable diagnosis, show the conditions that led to the disorder and offer evidence that the mental disorder was caused by employment conditions.

Employees with a preexisting condition could have a harder time proving that an occupational setting led to an illness. Preexisting conditions are counted as causes when an occupational disease occurs but might not be the major contributing cause of a disease.

An insurance company might pay for a worker's medical expenses after a workplace injury occurs, but an occupational disease could be more severe and long-term. Depending on the illness or infection, an employee might need time off work or could no longer be able to work. While there are benefits available for workers in such cases, one might need to consult an attorney in case a dispute arises.

Source: Oregon Laws, " 656.802 Occupational disease ", November 20, 2014

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