A: The likelihood of recovery under Virginia’s workers’ compensation laws for a chronic illness will depend on the type of illness and whether the illness was directly caused by the work you perform. Even if your doctor attributes a chronic illness to your work, it may not be enough to be classified as an occupational disease that is considered compensable under Virginia workers’ compensation.
A chronic disease is classified as either an occupational disease or an ordinary disease of life. The first step is figuring out whether you suffer from an occupational disease or an ordinary disease of life. To be classified as an occupational disease, your illness must have been caused by a source the general population isn’t readily exposed to.
For example, asbestosis is an occupational disease caused by chemicals the general population does not normally encounter. On the other hand, asthma is a medical condition that is classified as an ordinary disease of life.
An ordinary disease of life can be considered an occupational disease for purposes of workers’ compensation if you have evidence showing the disease exists and arose out of and in the course of your employment, and:
- follows as an occurrence of occupational disease;
- is contagious and contracted from your employment in a health and emergency related field; or
- is an attribute of the employment.
Distinguishing between an occupational disease and an ordinary disease of life can be complicated. Unlike accidents, aggravations of pre-existing diseases are NOT covered by Virginia workers’ compensation. Also, the burden of proof is higher.