Diagnosing occupational disease

Work-related injuries are not always obvious, and they do not always occur immediately or because of a single event. Some work-related harms develop over long periods of time and slowly present themselves via chronic, remitting or relapsing symptoms. An occupational disease is one such harm, a harm that affects many New York workers.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, an occupational illness is one that health care providers associate with a certain occupation or industry. These types of diseases result from a variety of chemical, psychological, biological and physical factors that are present in a workspace and that employees encounter on a frequent basis. Occupational illnesses are compensable under workers’ comp law because the accepted belief is that they are preventable. Individuals generally only develop an occupational disease if the working conditions are somehow faulty.

Like any other work-related injury, occupational illness is compensable under workers’ compensation law. However, in order to obtain compensation for the damages associated with the disease, a worker must prove that the illness is, in fact, work-related. Proving this requires a carefully obtained diagnosis.

American Family Physician explains how insurers and medical providers work together to diagnose an illness and determine whether or not it is work-related. First, the physician would conduct a physical exam to identify the disease. Then, he or she would consider whether any factors present in the person’s workplace or previous place of employment might have contributed to or aggravated the condition. If necessary, the physician would order other tests to corroborate causation.

Some other factors a physician might use to determine the etiology of an illness include studies regarding the accepted or suspected adverse symptoms of identified occupational exposures; the period between possible exposure and symptom onset; possible latency periods; and non-occupational work factors. Physicians should also consider occupational etiology in cases in which the patient does not fit the typical demographic profile of a certain disease.

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