How to file for workers’ compensation after an occupational cancer diagnosis
Suffering an injury while on the job is one of the worst things that can happen. It often results in missing work and leaves you with a pile of medical bills. Some injuries and illnesses manifest right away, allowing you to seek treatment; whereas others, such as work-related cancer, creep up on workers over time due to toxic exposure.
Tragically, an estimated 200,000 people die from work-related cancer every year.
Let’s take a closer look at work-related cancer, common causes and options for compensation in Georgia.
Common causes of occupational cancer
Cancer refers to a large group of diseases caused by the growth of malignant cells. These cells divide uncontrollably and can destroy healthy tissues.
Workers who are regularly exposed to carcinogenic compounds are at risk of developing various types of cancer. In an effort to raise awareness and protect workers, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has listed more than 50 substances known to cause cancer in the workplace.
These top carcinogens include:
- Passive exposure to tobacco
- Wood dust
- Exhaust from diesel engines
- Silica dust
- Fluids from metalworking
- Welding fumes
- Arsenic compounds
- Asphalt fumes
Professions with the highest occupational cancer rates
Specific work environments put workers at higher risks of developing cancer than others. The carcinogenic agents can be biological or chemical. The following are some of the professions with higher cancer risks.
- Rubber manufacturing
- Plastic workers
- Chemical factory workers
Common types of work-related cancer
There are more than 100 types of cancer. However, only a few are commonly caused by workplace exposure. Here are a few of the most widespread in the U.S.:
1. Lung cancer
Lung cancer has topped the charts for decades now. Although the numbers are on the decline, it remains the most common form of cancer. According to the Centers for Disease and Control & Prevention (CDC), there were about 221,100 new lung cancer cases in the U.S in 2017.
The most common cause of lung cancer is smoking and passive exposure to tobacco. Other work-related causes of lung cancer include asbestos, cadmium, silica dust, diesel exhaust and paints.
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the tissue lining of major organs, such as the lungs, stomach and kidneys. However, it is relatively rare, and it is a very aggressive type of cancer. It mainly affects the lungs and the abdomen. Common symptoms include chest pains, difficulty in breathing and abdominal pains. Asbestos workers face an increased risk of developing mesothelioma.
3. Sinonasal cancer
“Sinonasal undifferentiated carcinoma” refers to malignant growth in the nasal cavity and the sinuses. It causes nasal obstruction, bloody nose, double vision and bulging eyes. This type of cancer is rare among the general population. It usually signifies a harmful working environment. Exposure to wood dust, nickel compounds and leather dust are the most common causes.
Leukemia affects the blood-forming tissues, such as bone marrow and lymphocytes, leading to the production of abnormal blood cells. This cancer hinders the body’s ability to fight off diseases. Leukemia can be slowly progressing (chronic) or rapidly progressing (acute). Occupational exposure to benzene and radiation causes acute leukemia. Symptoms include easy bruising, frequent infections and sudden weight loss.
5. Urinary bladder cancer
This type of cancer affects the lining of the urinary tract. It occurs when the mucosal surfaces that line the urinary tract are exposed to carcinogens present in the urine. It is the most common form of bladder cancer in the U.S. The common environmental causes include tobacco, painting, rubber and aluminum production.
Pursuing occupational cancer compensation in Georgia
Georgia workers’ compensation laws entitle all workers suffering from an occupational disease to seek compensation. In certain professions, certain types of cancer are one of the occupational diseases covered by workers’ comp. Under OCGA Section 34-9-280(2), sick employees can receive compensation if they can meet the State Board of Workers’ Compensation (SBWC) guidelines.
For example, in May 2017, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signs a bill into law that grants firefighters additional insurance benefits if they contract cancer while on the job. Though not the same as workers’ compensation (a previous bill which the governor rejected), these insurance benefits provide much needed financial relief to Georgia firefighters and their families.
In Georgia, all injured or ill employees must notify the employer within 1 month and file their claim with the State Board within 1 year of diagnosis. It is recommended that you consult a work injury lawyer at this stage.
Failure to file your suit in time automatically disqualifies your claim. However, this expiration date can be extended for types of cancers that take longer than 1 year to manifest. For you to receive compensation, your personal injury attorney must prove the following:
- There is a direct connection between the disease and the working environment.
- The disease could not have been caused by exposure outside the work environment.
- The disease must be a result of the risk in the workplace.
- The disease is not an ordinary lifestyle illness that affects other members of the public.
Let our Georgia occupational illness compensation attorneys help
In a perfect world, all occupational disease claims would get settled. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case. Employers and insurers will always try to reduce the compensation amount to the lowest possible amount. They will use every mistake against you. Our experienced Georgia work injury attorneys can help you avoid these pitfalls.