Though the most common types of injuries covered by workers’ compensation rules in Virginia are accidents, occupational diseases are also covered. For workers’ compensation purposes, 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 would be anything you are exposed to outside of employment.
Occupations Diseases Covered by Workers Comp
Some examples of diseases that could be considered occupational diseases are AIDS and HIV, asthma, allergic reactions, heart attacks, or cancer; however, there must be a direct link between the work environment and the disease. For example, a nurse who is pricked with a dirty needle from an HIV positive patient or a construction worker doing intense physical labor in the heat who suffers a heart attack.
Some diseases that are considered ordinary diseases of life may also be compensable under workers’ compensation if certain criteria are met. 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. Basically, the doctor has to be able to say that work caused the condition and it cannot result from sources outside of employment. This is a stronger burden of proof than just by a preponderance of the evidence (legal speak for “more likely than not”).
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 workplace aggravate your pre-existing asthma so that you no longer can work. This would not be covered under Virginia workers compensation rules. However, if you’d never had asthma before and the paint fumes caused 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 benefit. This usually is a medical question that needs to be adequately documented by your doctor in your medical records. The big question for occupational diseases is WHAT CAUSED IT? So remember this when you are talking to your doctor as medical evidence is a MUST in order for you to get benefits for an occupational disease claim.