Chemical Exposure: Workers’ Compensation or Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Workers’ Compensation provides a way for employees who suffer a work-related injury to be compensated for their medical expenses and lost wages without having to prove the injury was due to the employer’s negligence. In turn, employers may not accuse their employees of negligently causing their own injury.
It sounds simple enough, but problems often arise when employers argue the injury was not work-related despite the employee’s claim that it was. There are elements you must prove in order to collect workers’ compensation benefits when you claim you were injured due to a chemical exposure in the workplace.
Workers’ Compensation and Chemical Exposure
Whether or not you can collect workers’ compensation benefits for your chemical exposure injury begins with proving several extraneous factors.
You need to identify the toxic substance that caused your injury. This may take a medical analysis and tests after identifying your medical problem. A certain caustic burn on the skin may lead a treating physician to the conclusion the burn was caused by lye. Certain conditions in children only develop when the child eats lead paint. Mesothelioma is caused only be exposure to asbestos.
Identifying where a chemical originated may not be an easy task. Although a chemical burn to the skin may show up immediately, other illnesses may take years to develop. For example, it takes between 10 and 50 years for exposure to asbestos to develop into mesothelioma, a type of cancer. Many workers who have been diagnosed with that condition have had to review their entire work history in order to determine who they were employed by at the time they were exposed.
Who had control of the job site where your exposure occurred. If you are still working on the job where the exposure occurred, this should be easy. But, if the job was one you had months or years ago, the company may not even still be in business. You may not even remember its correct name. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you with this task.
You were exposed to that particular chemical at work. Some chemicals waft through the air and it may be enough to show you were around where it was being used. Workers required to wear protective gear may have been exposed if the protective gear was inadequate. Job records, showing dates and times of your employment coinciding with the time the chemical was used will be helpful.
As a result of the exposure, you were injured. Some chemical exposures cause certain specific illnesses. As mentioned, mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos.
Establishing these criteria will allow you to collect workers’ compensation benefits from whoever your employer was at the time of your exposure.
Personal Injury Lawsuit When the Exposure Was Not Under the Control of Your Employer
If you were injured by a chemical exposure while working, but your employer did not have control over the location where the chemical came from, you may have both a worker’s compensation claim and a tort claim. Work-related has been defined as, arising “out of and in the course of employment.”
You can file a personal injury lawsuit against the business responsible for releasing the chemical in a way that caused you harm. Your lawsuit will be as any other personal injury lawsuit requiring you to prove the responsible party was negligent and that negligence caused you harm for which you suffered damages.
Third Party Lawsuits
Circumstances may exist where you can collect both workers’ compensation and file a lawsuit against another responsible party. It is referred to as a third party lawsuit since there are now three parties involved in the process: you, your employer, and the third party.
One example of a third party lawsuit is if you were using a chemical from a spray can at work, but the can malfunctioned, exploded in your hand and burned your skin when you were exposed to the chemical contained in the can.
Don’t Wait to File a Claim
The law requires you to file your claims within a certain period of time after your injury, so do not delay. If you suffered an injury due to chemical exposure and the exposure was work-related, contact one of our workers’ compensation attorneys at the Blumenshine Law Group for a free consultation. We are experienced personal injury lawyers and will work to ensure you receive all the compensation to which you are legally entitled, whether that means a workers’ compensation claim alone, a personal injury lawsuit, or a combination of both.