Can you get workers’ compensation in Georgia if your job is responsible for a birth defect or miscarriage?
Although many birth injuries occur as the result of some type of non-preventable event or medical malpractice, there are rare instances in which a pregnant worker may experience an injury or toxic exposure while on the job that leads to a miscarriage or birth defect. In such cases, there is an intersection of birth injury and workers’ compensation law. Under Georgia’s workers’ compensation system, parents do have access to compensation.
We’ll explain more about this intersection between birth injuries and workers’ compensation below. However, it’s important to understand that these types of cases are especially complex and challenging because they require both extensive knowledge of the workers’ compensation system and medical expertise. For this reason, you should consult with an experienced attorney near you who is fully equipped to handle such cases.
Birth injury statistics and the role of workplace toxins
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, more than 1,000 workplace chemicals have shown reproductive effects in animals, though most have not been studied in humans. What’s more, there are approximately 4 million chemical mixtures currently used in commercial settings that remain completely untested. Such biological agents used in the workplace could potentially affect the outcomes of both fertility and pregnancy.
Potential reproductive disorders include:
- Birth defects
- Developmental disorders
- Preterm birth
- Low birth weight
Additionally, exposure to toxic agents may result in impotence, reduced fertility, and disorders of the menstrual cycle.
Currently, birth defects are the leading cause of infant mortality.
Each year, more than 8,000 infants die due to a birth defect. Furthermore, approximately 120,000 babies are born with significant birth defects each year in the United States. Nearly 20 percent of all children in the U.S. suffer from some form of developmental disability, including:
- Hearing impairment
- Cerebral palsy
- Mental retardation
- Vision impairment
It is difficult to estimate the number of people who are exposed in the workplace to hazards that might affect the reproductive system. Even so, we do know that about 75 percent of people in the workplace are of reproductive age. More than 50 percent of children born in the United States are born to women who work.
These statistics indicate that a significant number of people in the workplace could potentially be at risk for negative outcomes involving fertility or pregnancy.
Common causes of work-related birth injuries and pregnancy loss
Miscarriage can happen for many reasons, including toxic exposure in the workplace. Some of the most common causes of work-related miscarriages include:
- Acts of violence
- Auto accidents
In the last few years, there has been an increased number of cases brought to court against employers as a result of pregnancy loss or birth defects. For example, beginning in 2009, more than 25 multi-party cases were filed against semiconductor manufacturers. The plaintiffs’ attorneys claimed that employees working in “clean rooms” were exposed to toxic chemicals (like ethylene glycol ethers) which caused birth defects in their children.
Clean rooms and reproductive issues
The term “clean room” might sound as though it would be a safe place to work; however, that is certainly not always the case. Individuals who work in clean rooms are often employed by semiconductor computer chip manufacturers. Occupations in this industry often result in exposure to dangerous chemicals such as acid, glycol ether, and acetone.
Although cleanrooms are intended to keep products clean, the work environment is not always a safe place for employees. Pregnant workers, as well as those who may become pregnant, who have experienced exposure to these chemicals may experience significant birth defects or even possibly pregnancy loss.
Birth defects and workers’ compensation
Birth defects can lead to a lifetime of expensive medical care. Anyone who is the victim of an injury due to exposure or an accident in the workplace is eligible to receive benefits under Georgia workers’ compensation laws. Such benefits include:
- Compensation for medical treatment
- Temporary or permanent disability benefits
- Costs associated with job replacement
- Death benefits
Miscarriage and worker rights in Georgia
When a pregnant worker experiences an accident in the workplace that jeopardizes the pregnancy, it is imperative that the event be reported right away to the employer. Events surrounding the event should be put in writing. In addition, it’s important to seek medical attention right away.
Even if miscarriage does not occur, when a pregnant worker experiences an illness or injury due to their employment, it may result in pregnancy complications. This may result in the need to take time off from work. In some cases, the worker may need to begin maternity leave right away. In the case of miscarriage, the worker may need to take time off to physically recover from the loss of pregnancy.
Workers who have experienced pregnancy loss or pregnancy complications as a result of their employment should consult an attorney to ensure they fully understand their rights.
Workers’ compensation provides protection to most Georgian’s who are injured or who experience a health condition or illness due to events surrounding their employment—including miscarriages and birth defects. Along with reporting the incident and seeking medical attention, it is also important to collect evidence regarding the incident. In order to receive compensation, workers will need to prove that the miscarriage occurred as a direct result of their job.
Benefits under workers’ compensation typically cover medical treatment as well as lost wages. Such benefits may also cover medical investigations. Unfortunately, pain and suffering are not covered under workers’ compensation benefits.
Individuals who have experienced a loss of a pregnancy or whose children have been born with birth defects that may be the result of exposure in the workplace should not hesitate to seek professional legal representation to ensure their rights—and the rights of their children—are fully protected.