If you get sick on the job, can you file for workers compensation?
This is a great question. Most people know that if they are injured at work—say, by falling off a ladder—workers’ comp will cover them. But what if the work injury isn’t an injury at all, but an illness? Does workers’ comp cover illness? If it doesn’t, are there other options?
As with many legal issues, the answer is: it depends. Keep reading to learn when an illness might be covered by workers’ compensation.
What Does Workers’ Comp Cover?
In Ohio, workers’ compensation pays benefits to employees who are injured or contract an occupational disease on the job.
Workers’ compensation covers injuries that happen on the job—both one-time and repetitive stress injuries. For example, a restaurant worker who slips and falls on a wet floor could receive workers’ compensation benefits, as could a factory worker who develops carpal tunnel syndrome from repetitive movements.
In addition, workers’ comp covers what’s called “occupational diseases.” An occupational disease refers to an illness an employee develops as a result of their job.
Unfortunately, just because you get sick on the job doesn’t mean you’re covered: workers’ compensation doesn’t cover all types of illnesses. Let’s dig in to which illnesses are covered and which aren’t.
Illnesses Covered By Workers’ Comp
The most common occupational diseases occur because an employee was repeatedly exposed to—or had prolonged exposure to—something toxic or harmful to human health. Unfortunately, this is common. In fact, the CDC estimates that at least 13 million Americans are exposed to chemicals in their workplace.
Occupational diseases can happen to employees in many different industries. However, some professions—including construction workers, miners, welders, firefighters, and farm workers—are at higher risk for many occupational illnesses.
Here are a few examples of occupational diseases that may be covered by workers’ comp:
- Chemical poisoning: Chemical burns and poisoning happen when an employee is exposed to harmful chemicals without the proper protective equipment. Employees in the agriculture, manufacturing, transportation industries are especially at risk.
- Occupational asthma, COPD, silicosis, asbestosis, and other respiratory conditions: When an employee frequently breathes in dust or chemical fumes on the job, respiratory problems happen. Workers in the manufacturing, refining, mining, construction, and textile industries, in particular, are prone to developing respiratory illnesses.
- Mesothelioma and other cancers: Mesothelioma is a type of cancer most commonly caused by workplace exposure to asbestos. Also, other types of cancers may be caused by workplace exposure to a variety of harmful contaminants. Though workers in many industries can develop cancer, firefighters are especially at risk of job-related cancer.
- Neurotoxic disorders: Exposure to some hazardous substances, such as heavy metals and certain solvents, can affect the brain. Workers in automobile or battery manufacturing, smelting, welding, or demolition should be aware of the risk.
Just as with injuries, illnesses are only covered if the worker can prove the job caused the illness.
Unfortunately, proving this can be tougher than proving an on-the-job accident. After all, workplace accidents are single events. They often have witnesses or camera footage. On the other hand, occupational illnesses often come on slowly. Sometimes, symptoms of a problem don’t show up until months or years after the workplace exposure. This makes it easier for employers to argue that the employee’s illness wasn’t caused by the job.
That’s why, if you believe your illness was caused by your job, it’s a good idea to talk to a workers’ compensation attorney. An experienced and qualified attorney can help you prove your case, so workers’ comp covers your illness.
Illnesses Not Covered by Workers’ Comp
Some illnesses are specifically excluded from being covered by workers’ comp:
- Anxiety, depression, and other psychological conditions (with an exception): Mental illnesses aren’t covered by workers’ compensation—unless the employee can prove the illness was a result of a workplace injury. For example, say an employee suffered a traumatic injury at work and lost a limb. After, they also developed depression or PTSD. Because the mental illness is connected to a physical injury, workers’ comp may cover it. Otherwise, unfortunately, it’s not covered.
- Infectious diseases (with an exception): Workers’ comp doesn’t typically cover illnesses like the common cold, flu, and even COVID-19. That’s because it’s almost impossible to prove where the employee became sick, since anyone in public might carry a virus. However, there is an exception in some cases: if your job requires you to interact with sick people, so you’re at greater risk of getting sick.
If you’re not sure whether or not your illness is covered, it’s important to check with an attorney. You don’t want to miss out on benefits you’re owed!
What to Do When Workers’ Comp Doesn’t Cover Your Illness
If workers’ comp doesn’t cover your illness, you might have other options. If your illness qualifies as a disability, you might consider SSDI.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is available to people with a “medically determinable” physical or mental impairment. Just like with workers’ compensation, applying for SSDI is easier with a knowledgeable lawyer.
Contact Us Today
If you have questions about your workers’ compensation claim, don’t hesitate to contact us!
The workers’ compensation lawyers at Casper & Casper are here to answer all your questions and help you determine your next steps. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.
Do you use social media? If you do, you’re certainly not alone! Most people use some form of social media, whether that’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or another platform.
Social media can be a good way to keep in touch with far-flung friends and family and to share things you care about. However, if you’re applying for Social Security Disability benefits, social media can be a minefield.
Today, we’re sharing what you need to know about social media and SSDI: will Social Security Disability look at your Facebook account? What can you share, and what should you keep to yourself? Keep reading to find out.
SSA and Social Media
Normally, the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) disability investigation units only look at social media to find fraudulent activity. (This means trying to find people who are applying for SSDI benefits who aren’t actually disabled.)
However, the SSA is now considering looking at all claimants’ social media (not just the suspected fraudsters).
The SSA’s 2020 budget included this potential change in policy, saying, “We are evaluating how social media could be used by disability adjudicators in assessing the consistency and supportability of evidence in a claimant’s case file.”
This is a big deal, for several reasons.
First, social media isn’t an accurate reflection of anyone’s life. You might have heard social media called a “highlight reel.” That’s true: Facebook and social media help us present ourselves to others the way we want to be seen. And as you can imagine, most people would rather share the positive parts of their lives, rather than the sad, lonely, bad times.
This is why it’s alarming that the SSA might look at your Facebook account. Let’s say that you had a good day and went for a short hike with a friend. When you get home, you post the photo of the two of you. If an SSA investigator found that photo out of context, they might say you are lying about the extent of your disability. But what that single photo doesn’t show is how tired you were for days after the hike, or that you had to stop the hike early, or that you are rarely well enough to go on a hike!
Also, it’s important to remember that social media profiles aren’t connected to driver’s licenses or Social Security numbers. What happens if an SSA investigator stumbles upon a profile with your same name? How will the SSA verify that the person jet-skiing in the photo is really the one applying for SSDI benefits?
Second, SSA investigators looking at all social media could slow down claims. If you’ve read our previous posts about SSDI claim delays, you know this is a huge problem. The SSDI claims process is already unacceptably slow.
Since looking at all claimants’ social media is time-consuming and provides little useful information, we hope the SSA abandons this practice. There are other ways to find fraud that don’t invade claimant’s privacy and cause needless hardship for people with disabilities.
Will Social Security Disability Look at Your Facebook Account?
The bottom line is that, when applying for SSDI benefits, you should be careful on social media.
First and foremost, it’s a good idea to set your profile to private. Having a private profile prevents strangers from looking at the content you share. This is important not only for your SSDI claim but also for privacy in general. A public picture of you, currently sitting on the beach, could be used by SSA investigators and a burglar looking for empty homes. (To set your profile to private, you can search online for the instructions for each platform.)
That said, setting your profile to private won’t guarantee your privacy. For example, you might share a picture of yourself to your friends and family, who might share the photo on their profiles. If your friends and family don’t have private profiles, that picture of yours is now effectively public.
In short, it’s a good idea to assume that Social Security disability is looking at your Facebook account (and other profiles). That way, you’ll be more cautious during your claim. When you are applying for SSDI benefits, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Here are a few types of posts you might consider texting to your loved ones instead of posting:
- Status updates that talk about your SSDI claim
- Status updates that seem to exaggerate your condition (investigators can’t tell if you are speaking hyperbolically or joking)
- Photos of you doing physical activity or any “substantial gainful activity”
- Old photos of you, pre-disability, doing physical activity (investigators might miss the photo’s date and assume it was recent)
Questions? Call our Social Security Disability Attorneys
The SSDI process is a confusing one. If you have more questions or need help filing, we’re here for you.
Call us today to schedule a consultation with one of Casper & Casper’s experienced Social Security Disability attorneys.
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