North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Benefits Help — How to Tell Whether an Injury/Disease You Get At Work Is Compensable Under State Law

January 11, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

For extensive and detailed North Carolina workers’ compensation assistance, look to either the North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC) or to a reputable, experienced attorney to handle questions about benefits, disputes with employers or insurance companies, and other strategic or tactical concerns.

This essay will give you some insight into a question that many injury workers have — namely, whether an occupational injury or illness acquired will be compensable under the law.

What is occupational disease?

Technically, it is a condition that is caused/exacerbated by a particular kind of job or job process — or is characteristic of a certain profession. For instance, chimney sweeps in the days of old used to get all sorts of lung ailments — the occupational diseases of chimney sweeping.

A disease must meet four parameters in order for it to be considered “occupational.”

1. The disease has to be “peculiar” to a kind of work or industry.

As we’ve mentioned in our previous example, certain exotic lung ailments would be peculiar to people who spend ten to twelve hours a day cleaning chimneys. Similarly, individuals who operate sewing machines for twelve to fourteen hours a day, for instance, may experience repetitive stress injuries due to repetitious fine movement of the fingertips. Conversely, a sewing operator would have a hard time proving that her type 1 diabetes is an occupational disease, since diabetes does not show an exaggerated prevalence among her coworkers.

2. The employee must get that disease or illness while working in a particular line of work.

Consider the case of a concert violinist who plays in a philharmonic who develops severe burns to her back. Unless she got the burns while engaged in the course of her work — for instance, maybe she had an accident in the kitchen or got electrocuted or got caught in a fire — she cannot claim that the burns resulted directly from an occupational disease.

3. The occupation needs to present a hazard.

To build on our previous example, our violinist might be at for developing soft tissue injuries, such as tennis elbow, rotator-cuff damage, repetitive stress injury, etc. After all, playing the violin requires hours and hours of repetitious movements of the hands, fingers, and arms.

4. The incidence of the disease is higher than it is in the normal population.

As we mentioned earlier, chimney sweeps tend to develop lung ailments at a much more exaggerated rate than do people in other walks of life. Violinists and sewing machine operators, likewise, suffer a higher than average incidence of repetitive strain and myofascial problems.

If you, a friend, or coworker suffers from occupational disease, and you need help with your North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits, a reputable attorney can provide you with guidance to ensure that the insurance companies and your employers treat you fairly.

More Web Resources:

North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC)

Occupational Disease