Occupational hazard lawsuit, workers compensation

Occupational hazard lawsuits are the number one concern of businesses of all sizes, and for the personal safety of all involved, employers are required by law to provide workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. The cost of this insurance varies depending on the size of the company, the level of risk the employees take on on a daily basis, and previous accident history for the company. Employers can purchase the insurance directly through the state, by using a licensed insurance company, or by establishing a fund to pay for any employee claims themselves.

PURPOSE OF THE COMPENSATION OF WORKERS IN HAZARDOUS OCCUPATIONS

The purpose of workers’ compensation is to provide medical expenses and income for workers injured by hazardous workplace conditions and to offset court costs if there is a dispute. If an employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance or files fraudulent paperwork to avoid paying higher premiums, the outcome could be disastrous for the company. An employee can sue to get the full cost of medical treatment, including pain and suffering, and the employer can be forced to pay higher premiums when eventually purchasing insurance.

WHEN TO CONSULT AN LABOR HAZARD LAWYER

If an employee believes that his current illness or injury has been caused by an occupational hazard, he should contact an attorney. A lawyer has knowledge of state-specific workers’ compensation laws and can outline options for settling the case. It is not always easy to obtain benefits from employee compensation policies and the employee may be required to provide substantial evidence that the illness or injury in question was not caused by outside influence.

Illness is probably the most difficult to collect compensation from workers, as symptoms can take years to develop. In an effort to save the company money, an employer working with their insurance company may flatly deny that the injury or illness is the result of hazardous working conditions. A denial letter from the insurance company for a claim can result in denial of medical treatment, and it is critical to consult an attorney long before this situation arises and you run out of money to pay for services.

In general, unionized workers are the most likely group to need protection because of the hazardous conditions in many of their jobs. Examples of unionized workers are carpenters, welders, masons and iron workers. Each of these jobs carries the potential for exposure to toxic gases, asbestos, faulty equipment, grueling breaks and strains caused by a fall, and even death.

OSHA REGULATES SAFETY MEASURES AT WORK

In an effort to protect workers in these hazardous professions, OSHA sets exposure limits for toxic substances, including workplace noise. OSHA is a government agency that also regulates safety measures that must be followed to meet their standards, and failure to comply can result in hefty fines. Office workers can also be affected by hazardous workplace conditions such as asbestos, carpal tunnel syndrome, mold, and strains caused by moving boxes or office equipment.

PROVING THE CASE IN AN OCCUPATIONAL TREATMENT TRIAL

The case for an occupational hazard lawsuit can be strengthened if the employee can prove that the employer knew about the risks associated with the job and did nothing to inform employees of the hazard. Gross negligence can be extremely difficult to prove and often requires extensive evidence that the employer committed an intentional act against you. Depending on the type of insurance an employer purchases for their business, there may be different eligibility requirements for workers compensation coverage, and there is often a time frame within which employees must report an incident to ensure it qualifies for coverage .

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CASE STUDY FORMER IBM EMPLOYEES LAUNCH ACTION ON OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS

Several years ago, two former IBM employees filed a lawsuit against the company. The employees claimed they had contracted cancer from the chemicals used at IBM to make processing chips. They also alleged that IBM was aware of the potential risk of using the specific chemical and failed to inform all employees of the associated risks.

It can take many years for the symptoms of cancer to manifest, and with many air pollutants now labeled as carcinogens (carcinogens), it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold companies accountable for disease. Other former employees tried to sue the computer company, claiming that they too had developed cancer from chemicals in the plant and that some had given birth to children with birth defects due to exposure to toxins. IBM won the lawsuits because the workers couldn’t pinpoint the cancer from the specific chemical used at the plant, and many of the lawsuits were filed years after the guidelines set forth in the company’s workers’ compensation policy.

Unlike an illness that can take years to develop, injury is usually very sudden and it is easier to pinpoint the cause of such an accident. Let’s assume you work in a machine shop where metal drill bits are made. The noise level is above the threshold set by OSHA and your employer has been advised that all employees must wear hearing protection. Your employer decides to ignore these recommendations and you lose your hearing by working next to the loud machines. The cause of the injury is easy to determine, and if the employer does not deny workers compensation, you have grounds for an occupational hazard lawsuit.