Workplace injuries are quite common. As many have experienced, even in the straightest forward of workers’ compensation claims, insurance companies make it as difficult as possible for you to actually obtain workers’ compensation benefits. There is no exception when you are claiming toxic exposure in the workplace. In fact, not only are injured workers’ confused, but even most workers’ compensation attorneys do not understand how to handle workers’ compensation toxic exposure cases.
The only party that benefits from an ill prepared claimant or attorney, is the workers’ compensation insurance company. This is because from the onset of your claim, the insurance company, as well as the employer, will deny all liability and fight these claims hard. This is because it is tough to prove that your cough, asthma, watery eyes, sinuses, throat soreness, body aches; anxious mood, etc. were caused by a toxin, that may or may not actually be present in the workplace.
We spoke with attorney Mark Larson whose office has played a big role in assisting and improving safety conditions for aerospace workers, including but not limited to reducing smoking, asbestos, chromium-6 in the workplace.
We have repeatedly worked with Occupational Security and Health Administration in penalizing employers that are poisoning their employees and chalking it up to “the cost of doing business.” said workers’ compensation attorney Mark Larson
Injured workers, including those that are being exposed to harmful chemicals in the workplace should seek the assistance of an experience lawyer to sue for chemical exposure.
Here is some advice of what to do after a claim has been filed along with other useful resources for workers who have suffered chemical exposure at their workplace:
- Be Careful of Going to Doctors Picked by the Insurance
When you first file your claim, the insurance companies will set you up with a doctor that they know will do everything possible to make sure that you do not succeed in your toxic claim. They will blame it on the weather, sinuses, changing of the earth’s atmosphere and other laughable factors.
Bottom line is that all humans are different and we all react (show symptoms) to toxins in different ways. Perhaps it is simply allergies, as many employers might claim. A toxicologist is the only person who can accurately assess why you are having certain symptoms, not simply a general internist or your employer.
You have control of the doctors you see through the insurance companies MPN (medical providers network) list. Do not let them decide what doctors you should see.
- What is a Toxin?
Merriam-Webster defines a toxin as a poisonous substance that is a specific product of the metabolic activities of a living organism and is usually very unstable, notably toxic when introduced into the tissues, and typically capable of inducing antibody formation. Please understand that because something might be a toxin, does not mean it is a carcinogen. A carcinogen is a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue.
For purposes of workers’ compensation claims, please recall that toxic exposure claims can include dust, second hand smoke, exhaust fumes, cleaning supplies, and many more. Also, chemicals can be absorbed through the skin and do not always need to be ingested (or breathed in) to poison your body.
- OSHA and Cal/OSHA
If the exposure involves more than dust and your symptoms are severe, you likely want to contact Occupational Security and Health Administration (OSHA) or California Occupational Security and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA). If you are employed in California, and not in the aerospace industry, you likely will need to contact Cal/OSHA. However, if you are confused, please call either of those agencies or an attorney for guidance.
In more serious types of claims, OSHA and Cal/OSHA’s involvement is critical. They investigate all serious workplace accidents. This can include, but is not limited to workplace injuries resulting in death, amputations, burns, hospitalization, or an unsafe workplace in general.
If your employer is not taking you seriously and you know something serious is going on, call OSHA, Cal/OSHA or an attorney who can guide you.
- Request Material Safety Data Sheets
California Labor Code §6398 states that “Employers shall furnish employees who may be exposed to a hazardous substance with information on the contents of the MSDS for the hazardous substances or equivalent information, either in written form or through training programs, which may be generic to the extent appropriate and related to the job.”
California Labor Code §6399 explains what steps an employer must take in order to obtain the information from the manufacturer, in the event they do not have access to the toxic information (MSDS sheets).
- Is This More Than Just a Workers’ Compensation Case?
It is important to look at what is causing your specific type of toxic exposure. Is it from the building? If so, who owns the building? If your employer leases the building, you might have a workers’ compensation and third party (civil claim). Third party simply means that besides you and your employer, a third party is involved and may have caused your injuries. Even if your employer owns the building, were they hiding the hazardous toxins from you?
In almost 100% of toxic claims, the injured worker will likely need to get an attorney. Even if you have an attorney, these cases take serious strategization and experience to win, in addition to access to the right doctors.
Additionally, the entire workers’ compensation system is becoming highly complex and much worse than it has ever been. Besides toxic claims, now, more than ever, people need a good workers’ compensation attorney to beat the system. Many attorneys and injured workers are overwhelmed and beaten by the system and consequently, obtain horrible settlements.
This article is for educational purposes only. Every person and their situation is unique to them. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice, nor does it create an attorney client privilege.