Are Occupational Diseases Covered by Virginia Workers Compensation?
The most common types of injuries covered under workers’ compensation are accidents; however, some occupational diseases can be covered under Virginia Workers Compensation Benefits.
What is an Occupational Disease?
An occupational disease is considered a disease that arises out of and in the course of employment (just like accident requirements) and it’s not an ordinary disease of life, which you are exposed to outside of employment. Some examples of diseases that could be considered occupational diseases could include:
- AIDS and HIV
- Allergic Reactions (chemical exposure)
- Carpel Tunnel Syndrome
- Hearing Loss
- Heat Stroke
- Heart Attack
- Vaccine Reaction
- Asthma/Respiratory Illness
- Asbestos Exposure
- Lyme Disease
- COVID-19 (for healthcare workers)
You Have to Prove it was Work Related – The “Burden of Proof”
Occupational diseases can be covered under Virginia Workers Compensation Benefit IF it is established by clear and convincing evidence to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that it arose out of and was in the course of employment. It cannot result from outside causes of employment. This is a stronger burden of proof than just by a preponderance of the evidence.
There are some special rules regarding occupational diseases that are a little bit different than injuries by accident. For example, unlike pre-existing conditions with injuries by accident, if a disease is already in existence prior to your exposure at employment, it is not covered under workers’ compensation. An
example would be asthma: paint fumes in the workplace aggravate your pre-existing asthma so that you no longer can work. This would not be covered. However, if you’ve never had asthma before and the paint fumes caused asthma, then it could be covered under workers’ compensation.
Presumptions for Certain Industries
There are presumptions for certain workers in Virginia (like Police Officers, Firemen, and Emergency Response Departments) where the burden of proof reverts to the employer to prove that the disease or illness did not come from work. To find out if you are a member of one of these protected classes of employment, contact my office. 804-755-7755
Reporting Your Occupational Disease
The date that you are told that you have an occupational disease that was caused by work is considered the date of the accident for purposes of obtaining workers’ compensation benefits with occupational diseases. This usually is a medical question that needs to be adequately documented and related by your doctor in your medical records
About the Author: Michele Lewane
The Injured Workers Law Firm is a Richmond, Virginia based firm solely focused on serving clients with workers' compensation claims in Virginia. If you have questions about your benefits or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order our book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” , or call our office today (804) 755-7755.