Are illnesses covered by workers' compensation?

Most Pennsylvania workers know that workers' compensation covers injuries and even fatalities that occur as a result of a work-related incident. However, did you know that workers' comp is also, by law, required to cover work-related illnesses?

Coverage for work-related illnesses

There are certain occupational illnesses that PA specifically recognizes. These illnesses and the workers covered include:

  • Hepatitis and tuberculosis are named occupational illnesses for nurses, workers who handle drawing and processing blood, and other related professionals who are exposed to these illnesses.
  • Heart and lung disease are covered occupational illnesses for firefighters with more than 4 years on the job.
  • Silicosis and pneumoconiosis for any worker directly working with or exposed to coal dust.
  • Chemical poisoning such as lead, arsenic or mercury for workers that have direct contact or exposure with these poisonous materials or are involved in the preparation of these of chemicals.

Other work-related illnesses are covered providing the illness meets the following criteria:

  • The worker is exposed to the illness by "reason of his/her employment."
  • The disease is directly related to the employee's industry or job.
  • The illness occurs with substantially more frequency with workers meeting the previous two criteria than in the general public.

In addition, if you have a pre-existing condition such as asthma that is made worse by your job functions, you might qualify for workers' compensation.

Do you need a workers' compensation lawyer?

Pennsylvania workers' compensation laws and regulations can be quite complex. Employees who become ill from their jobs would be wise to contact an attorney experienced in workers' comp matters before filing a claim. Please keep in mind that there are filing deadlines that must be met for work-related illnesses.

Workers whose initial workers' compensation claim is denied do have recourse for an appeal. An attorney can guide you through the appeals process and help you get the benefits to which you are entitled including lost wages, future lost wages, rehabilitation and more. In addition, if you are disabled by your illness an attorney can advise you on how to file a Social Security Disability claim for benefits.

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