Employees in South Carolina who develop an occupational disease are entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits, however the definition of an occupational disease is very specific. Benefits for eligible workers include compensation for lost wages, medical coverage, and partial or total permanent disability compensation. An experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer can help you determine if you are entitled to benefits as outlined by South Carolina Workers’ Compensation laws, and will ensure that you receive the maximum benefits available to you.
The experienced team of Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Chappell, Smith & Arden is committed to helping our clients claim Workers’ Compensation benefits, even if they have been initially denied. Workers who develop occupational diseases deserve to be compensated for lost wages and medical expenses. In some cases where permanent disability occurs due to the occupational illness, additional compensation may be available.
Types of Occupational Illnesses
An occupational disease is an illness that a worker suffers as a direct result of the hazardous conditions they are exposed to on the job that directly causes the disease. Mesothelioma is one of the most common occupational diseases covered by Workers’ Compensation benefits. Miners, auto mechanics, construction workers, and ship builders are commonly exposed to asbestos on the job. Toxic asbestos fibers can lay dormant in a person’s lungs for a period of 20-50 years before the worker develops this terminal lung cancer.
Mesothelioma meets the definition of an occupational disease because workers in certain industries develop this type of cancer as a result of the exposure to asbestos in their line of work. Workers’ Compensation benefits provide the employee with compensation for lost wages, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, physical therapy, prescription medications, and disability payments. This compensation not only helps the patient to focus on their recovery, but relieves the victim’s family from the financial burdens caused by their loved one’s occupational disease.
Other types of occupational illnesses include those related to exposure to harsh chemicals such as formaldehyde, benzene, and other gases, mists, and vapors that can cause brain damage, respiratory diseases, lead poisoning, and skin diseases.
Exceptions to Workers’ Compensation Coverage
To qualify for Workers’ Compensation benefits, the employee must prove that the illness is a direct result of their exposure to hazardous conditions on the job. The flu, arthritis, and pneumonia are serious illnesses that can have catastrophic and debilitating consequences, but they are not considered occupational diseases even if the worker claims to have contracted the illness due to their working environment. Illnesses such as these are common among the public, and even if a worker comes down with the flu because of exposure to a colleague that had the illness, it is not considered an occupational disease.
Certain groups of workers in South Carolina are ineligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits. These include railway express and railroad company employees, federal employees, workers at businesses with less than four employees, and agricultural workers. In some cases, realtors and truck drivers operating under an independent contractor lease agreement are also excluded from Workers’ Compensation benefits.
Claiming Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Occupational Diseases
When you are diagnosed with an occupational illness in South Carolina, you have 90 days to report this to your employer to ensure you receive benefits. You can file a claim for Workers’ Compensation benefits up to two years after being diagnosed with an occupational disease, however your benefits are at risk after the 90-day period. Tracking time limits on an occupational disease claim can be tricky so it is wise to file the claim with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation.
In some cases, benefits are initially denied. Workers have the right to appeal this decision, or dispute decisions on the type or amount of Workers’ Compensation benefits granted. An experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer will file your claim for benefits accurately and ensure that you are eligible to all entitled benefits.
Columbia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Chappell, Smith & Arden Advocate for Workers with Occupational Diseases
If you have been diagnosed with an occupational illness or disease, the experienced Columbia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Chappell, Smith & Arden can help you claim the maximum Workers’ Compensation benefits available to you. Call us at 803-929-3600, or contact us online to schedule a consultation today.
Our offices are conveniently located throughout South Carolina and we serve clients in Lexington County, Richland County, Sumter County, Aiken County, Florence County, Lancaster County, York County, Orangeburg County, Kershaw County, and Newberry County, as well as the towns of Columbia, Lexington, Irmo, Chapin, Rock Hill, Aiken, Sumter, Newberry, Florence, and Spartanburg.