Occupational Disease in New Jersey: An Overview
An occupational disease is a type of work injury that develops over the course of time. This type of injury is typically covered under New Jersey workers’ compensation law. An occupational disease can be anything from a lung or pulmonary disorder caused by the inhalation of harmful chemicals, to an orthopedic injury caused by repetitive stress to the back or another body part. The bottom line is that, when these injuries occur, they may be compensable under the state workers’ compensation laws.
Legal Requirements in New Jersey
For an occupational disease to be compensable under the state workers’ compensation laws, the following criteria must be met: 1) the occupational disease must arise from the employment; 2) it has to occur during your work duties; 3) the occupational injury is common to either your workplace, occupation or trade; and 4) your job duties contributed significantly to your disease, far more so than your daily activities outside of work.
Disease and deterioration of the body attributable to normal aging cannot be claimed under workers’ compensation. This may present challenges for certain workers who suffer illnesses that could be age-related.
Common Occupational Diseases
Workers may experience various cumulative injuries and illnesses while performing their day-to-day job functions. Some common examples follow.
- Respiratory illnesses (i.e. asthma and asbestos-related lung disease)
- Repetitive motion injuries (i.e. carpal tunnel syndrome)
- Cardiovascular or cerebrovascular injury or death
- Lead poisoning
- Psychiatric disorders
- Hearing loss
- Eye disease
In order to succeed on an occupational injury claim, an injured worker must establish that their job duties and/or work conditions were the cause of their injuries. This requires detailed information and evidence particular to the workplace and job duties.
For repetitive motion claims, specific information regarding the mechanics of the job duties, machinery operated, weight of the objects lifted, etc. must be explored. If you perform similar activities during your everyday living, you’ll need to demonstrate that your work duties caused the injury, rather than normal living.
If you suffer from an illness due to long-term exposure to fumes or chemicals, you will need to detail how often you were exposed, at what level and for how long. It will also be necessary to show that the exposure was greater than that to which you experience normally outside of work.
Hearing loss claims must be substantiated with a direct correlation between your work environment and the impairment, such as regular exposure to extremely loud machinery. Psychiatric conditions require evidence of unreasonably stressful working conditions and proof that these circumstances were both unique to your job, and particularly related to your employment.
Cardiac injury must be substantiated with evidence of physical exertion on the job that led to the cardiovascular event. You’ll need to establish that the work-related physical activity was more intense than what you typically experience when you’re not working.
These are just a few examples of the scrutiny you will experience in pursuing an occupational disease workers’ compensation claim. A seasoned New Jersey Workers’ Compensation attorney with experience in these cases can help you make a case in court.
Occupations that are Susceptible to Occupational Diseases
Nearly any job can result in injury, but some carry more risk than others, and some jobs carry a risk for cumulative injuries that take place over time. The following are just a few types of occupations that carry a higher risk of occupational injury:
- Pipefitters and Shipyard workers
- Factory workers
- Police officers
- Healthcare workers
- Workers who handle asbestos
Contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney if you are suffering from an illness related to your job. A lawyer can help determine whether you have a viable claim and gather the evidence needed to make a successful claim in court.