Though the most common types of injuries covered under workers’ compensation are accidents, occupational diseases are also covered. 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 are AIDS and HIV, asthma, allergic reactions, heart attacks, or cancer. Some diseases that are considered ordinary diseases of life may also be compensable under workers’ compensation. Some ordinary diseases of life, such as hearing loss and carpal tunnel syndrome, could be covered under workers’ compensation 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 the exposure at employment, it is not covered under workers’ compensation. An example would be asthma: paint fumes in the work place aggravate your pre-existing asthma so that you no longer can work. This would not be covered. However, if you’d never had asthma before and the paint fumes caused the asthma, then it would be covered under workers’ compensation. The date that an injured worker is told that he or she has an occupational disease which was caused by work is considered the date of accident for purposes of obtaining workers’ compensation benefits with occupational diseases. This usually is a medical question that needs to be adequately documented by your doctor in your medical records.