Posted Sep 2018
We’ve blogged in the past about occupational diseases and the importance of considering whether this often overlooked theory of compensability applies to the facts of your case. Often, a claim that may seem unwinnable on its face finds new life as an occupational disease. A client who is considered, according to social security standards, of advanced age, recently approached our office with difficulties in both wrists and both knees that the doctor told the patient was osteoarthritis. No accident or trauma at work, but the client noticed that when rested on weekends and vacations, the condition would feel better. Once working commenced, the symptoms would come back.
On first blush, one might reasonably conclude that arthritis is something we all experience as we age. What’s more, without an accident or traumatic event at work, how could this condition be related to employment and become a valid compensation claim? In this instance, the client had worked as an auto mechanic for 40 years without problems. The doctor, however, suggested that the employment may play a role. But does being a mechanic cause arthritis? Of course not.
However, the specific nature of your job may, over time, contribute to the progression of a condition such as arthritis. Important here was the support of a well-informed physician who understood the specifics of the work, i.e., the repeated use of air drills and wrenches constantly vibrating the hands, as well as constantly having to work on your feet and getting into and out of awkward positions to work on automobiles, and how those activities can hasten the symptoms associated with a disease like osteoarthritis.
When there is no specific accident but you primarily notice your symptoms at work, it is important to tell your doctor about the specifics of your day-to-day activities at work and discuss whether you may have an occupational disease. Don’t assume it’s age related, talk to your doctor and call an attorney to discuss the next steps that should be taken to institute a timely claim.