Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Diseases — What You Need to Know

Injured firefighter on a stretcher getting treatment.

Every industry has its work hazards — some more than others. While precautions are usually in place to prevent some injuries, others can happen instantly or over time. In fact, in December 2022, an Ohio firefighter died because of what officials said was an “occupational cancer.”

Below, the experienced Columbus workers’ compensation attorneys at Zamora & Hogan Co., L.P.A. discuss workers’ compensation as it relates to occupational diseases and what you need to know about protecting yourself financially.

Defining Occupational Diseases

Occupational diseases are illnesses or injuries that result from an individual’s job duties and responsibilities. Common occupational diseases can range from physical ailments like carpal tunnel syndrome to cancer diagnoses, for which the workers' compensation law creates a rebuttable presumption for firefighters. Unfortunately, in many cases, these illnesses are not immediately noticeable and can take time to manifest. This means that individuals may be unaware they have an occupational disease until it is too late.

Three of the most common types of occupational diseases are:

  • RSI — Repetitive stress injuries happen over time due to the repeated use of certain muscles, tendons, and joints in a particular way. Examples of RSIs include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and epicondylitis. These types of injuries generally develop slowly over time due to long-term movement or activity that results in some strain on the body.
  • Exposure-Related Illness — This occurs after exposure to hazardous material or chemicals during employment. Exposure-related illnesses include silicosis, lead poisoning, and asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma.
  • Cancer diagnoses for firefighters — Exposures to various toxic substances and carcinogens often encountered by firefighters in the course of their employment may cause various types of cancers.  The workers' compensation law creates a rebuttable presumption under certain circumstances, meaning the cancer is presumed to have developed due to work activities, unless the City of Bureau of Workers' compensation can prove the cancer developed for other reasons.

Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Diseases

When an occupational disease has been diagnosed, workers’ compensation benefits typically kick in to help ease the burden of medical expenses and lost wages from missed work due to the condition. Benefits can include coverage for medical costs related to diagnosis and treatment of the illness and reimbursement for lost wages if the employee is unable to work due to their condition. Death benefits may also be provided in the event an occupational disease caused a premature death.

It is important for individuals who believe they became ill or injured because of their job duties should contact a qualified workers’ compensation attorney right away and begin filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.  Be aware Ohio law has a one (1) year statute of limitations to file a claim for an occupational disease.

Our experienced lawyers at Zamora & Hogan Co., L.P.A. will assist with paperwork and help ensure that all necessary documents are filed correctly so that you receive the total amount of benefits you are entitled to under the law. Learn more about our services or schedule a consultation online or by phone today. (614) 344-6822

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