When most people hear about workers’ compensation claims, they think of accidents in the workplace that lead to injury. However, California residents should also be aware of occupational diseases that can result in a workers’ compensation claim. State laws concerning occupational diseases can vary, so it is best to be informed before filing a claim.

What is an occupational disease?

The definition of occupational disease varies by state. Some states classify it under the same guidelines as regular workers’ compensation claims while other states have created their own set of laws for them. Typically, an occupational disease is a disease or ailment that arises out of or in the course of employment.

Course of employment

It is important to note that two employees at the same workplace can catch the same illness without both having a claim to an occupational disease case. For instance, if a scientist at a lab catches a disease when a vial breaks, he or she would have an occupational disease claim. However, if a secretary at the same lab catches the disease from the infected scientist, they may not have a claim if they did not catch the disease through the course of employment.

Time matters

Workplace injuries typically occur quickly, but occupational diseases can take significantly longer. A worker who falls and breaks his or her arm has an immediate workers’ compensation claim while someone who develops scoliosis or a respiratory disease can take years to show symptoms. A state’s statute of limitations will have a direct impact on the likelihood that an employee receives a favorable ruling in an occupational disease case.

If you have contracted an illness linked to your employment, you should contact an attorney who is familiar with workers’ compensation claims in your state. This attorney may review your medical records and any related employee records to help navigate your claim.