Occupational Disease Lawyers in North Carolina

A woman suffering occupational disease

Most workers’ compensation claims in North Carolina involve workplace injuries. However, workers’ compensation insurance also provides benefits to workers who develop occupational diseases or illnesses. If you have developed a serious illness related to your job duties or hazardous exposure at your workplace and cannot work, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits that include payment of your medical bills and a portion of your lost wages.

A worker who has an occupational illness may be unsure of the benefits they should receive if an employer or insurance company denies an occupational disease claim. It can be difficult to navigate the North Carolina workers’ compensation bureaucracy on your own. The Raleigh workers’ compensation attorneys at Hardison & Cochran handle occupational disease claims in North Carolina. We will help you demand all the benefits provided by the North Carolina Workers Compensation Act.

If you or someone you love has developed a job-related illness that keeps them from working for a living in North Carolina, call the North Carolina occupational disease lawyers at Hardison & Cochran today toll-free at (800) 434-8399 or fill out our online contact form. You’ll get a response within 24 hours. The initial case evaluation is free.

What Are Occupational Diseases for Workers’ Compensation?

North Carolina’s workers’ compensation law names about 30 medical conditions that qualify as occupational diseases (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-53). If an employee contracts one of the following listed conditions due to exposures in the workplace, the worker should be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

Those Medical Conditions That Qualify As Occupational Diseases:

Category Specific Diseases/Conditions
Poisoning Anthrax, Arsenic, Brass, Zinc, Manganese, Lead*, Mercury, Phosphorus, Carbon Bisulphide, Menthanol, Naphtha, Volatile Halogenated Hydrocarbons, Benzol (and its derivatives), Sulphuric Acid, Hydrochloric Acid, Hydrofluoric Acid, Carbon Monoxide
Skin Conditions Chrome Ulceration, Epitheliomatous Cancer or Ulceration (due to tar, pitch, bitumen, mineral oil, paraffin, or related substances), Blisters (due to tool/appliance use)
Respiratory Conditions Asbestosis, Silicosis, Psittacosis
Radiation Exposure Radium Poisoning, Disorders due to Radioactive Properties, Roentgen Rays, X-rays, Other Radiation Sources
Musculoskeletal Disorders Compressed-air Illness, Bursitis (due to intermittent pressure), Miner’s Nystagmus, Bone Felon (due to pressure), Synovitis (trauma-related), Tenosynovitis (trauma-related)
Infectious Diseases Smallpox (due to vaccinations), Undulant Fever
Hearing Loss Hearing Loss (due to harmful noise)
Diseases caused by Chemical Exposure General category for conditions not specified but caused by chemical exposure in the workplace

The list also provides a catch-all provision, which says among the compensable illnesses are any disease proven to be due to causes and conditions that are characteristic of a particular trade, occupation, or employment. The list does not include ordinary diseases to which the general public is equally exposed outside of employment.

This catch-all provision has allowed the workers’ compensation system to provide benefits for occupational diseases that have more recently come to be seen as the result of cumulative trauma over years of work. It allows workers’ comp benefits for such workplace illnesses as:

The catch-all provision in N.C. workers’ compensation law opens the potential to obtain workers’ comp benefits for any disease, or illness derived from workplace exposure if there is something about your job that places you at greater risk than the general public for contracting the condition.

If you are ill or have a medical diagnosis that keeps you from returning to work, contact Hardison & Cochran about occupational disease claims in North Carolina. We’ll review your condition and how you contracted it at no cost to you. If you qualify, we will seek full workers’ compensation benefits for you.

Types Of Benefits Available To Workers With Occupational Diseases

Workers’ compensation benefits paid to disabled workers are calculated with formulas set by state law. In general, North Carolina’s workers’ compensation program provides:

Medical Benefits

Workers’ compensation insurance should pay for all medical treatment of a covered occupational disease. This includes diagnostic tests, doctor appointments, hospitalization, medication, assistive devices, and the services of any medical provider.

Disability Benefits

If your doctor determines that you will not be able to return to your job, you should receive wage-replacement benefits that amount to two-thirds of your average weekly wage prior to your illness. Your doctor may classify your illness as a temporary total disability (TTD), temporary partial disability (TPD), permanent partial disability (PPD), or permanent total disability (PTD). Temporary disability payments should last until you are able to return to work. Permanent partial disability payments are calculated according to a disability rating (a percentage) determined by the treating physician. PTD payments are provided for 500 weeks, but the disabled worker can apply to have payments extended.

Death Benefits

If your occupational disease is terminal, workers’ compensation will provide for your minor child or disabled spouse two-thirds of your average weekly wage for 400 weeks after your death. This includes cost-of-living increases. Workers’ comp also pays up to $10,000 for burial expenses.

If you are not fully disabled by your illness, the workers’ compensation program encourages you to return to some kind of work. To help, workers’ comp will reimburse you for vocational rehabilitation, education and tuition expenses, job search costs, and more.

Our Experience Handling Occupational Disease Cases

The attorneys and staff at Hardison & Cochran are dedicated advocates for our workers’ compensation clients. Managing partner Benjamin T. Cochran spent the first decade of his legal career focusing on workers’ compensation cases and received designation from the North Carolina State Bar as a Board-Certified Specialist in Workers’ Compensation.

Several of Mr. Cochran’s workers’ comp and personal injury cases have concluded with seven-figure resolutions in favor of his clients.

Partner attorney Joel Jackson Hardison defended insurance companies in workers’ compensation cases before joining Hardison & Cochran in 2008. He applies the insights he gained from representing insurance companies to helping injured and disabled workers pursue the workers’ comp benefits available by law. He is certified by the North Carolina Bar as a Specialist in Workers’ Compensation Law.

In 2015, Mr. Hardison secured a $3.5 million recovery for a worker who was paralyzed from the waist down when a tree fell on him while on the job in Mebane, N.C. North Carolina Lawyers Weekly included the case in its year-end look at the notable cases of 2015.

Additionally, partner attorney James Adam Bridwell is board-certified in North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Law, and attorneys Joey DeMartin and Michelle Dewkett-Kochhar also handle workers’ comp cases.

Pursuing an Occupational Disease Claim and Benefits for You

Workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance program that North Carolina and other states require most employers to provide for their employees. If you are unable to work for seven days because of illness or injury you suffer in the course of performing your job duties, you should qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.

To obtain workers’ compensation for occupational diseases, claimants need to:

  1. Promptly inform your employer of your illness. It is best if you can report a specific diagnosis or at least a doctor’s examination. Within 30 days, report your illness to your employer in writing.
  2. See your assigned doctor. Your employer may direct you to a healthcare provider to oversee your treatment or provide a list of doctors from which to select a provider. You must see this doctor and follow their care instructions. You are required to see any doctor your employer designates.
  3. Make sure your claim is filed correctly. Your employer should file a workers’ compensation claim for you. If a claim has not been filed or you can’t get an answer, a workers’ compensation lawyer can help you submit the N.C. Industrial Commission’s Form 18 to initiate a claim. The Industrial Commission, which administers North Carolina’s workers’ compensation system, will mail an acknowledgment letter to you after your Form 18 is processed. The Industrial Commission will direct your employer and/or their insurance carrier to inform you if they will voluntarily pay you workers’ compensation. If your employer denies your claim, you should be promptly notified of the exact reason for denial via Form 61.
  4. Contact a workers’ compensation lawyer. If you encounter any push-back about receiving workers’ compensation for an illness related to your job or working conditions, you should speak to a workers’ compensation lawyer. If you need help filing Form 18 to start a claim, a lawyer can help. Even if you are receiving benefits, a workers’ compensation attorney with Hardison & Cochran can review your claim for free and advise you about what benefits you should receive.

Contact a Workers’ Compensation Occupational Disease Benefits Attorney Today

The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act protects employees who have contracted occupational illnesses because of their jobs. The process of making a claim can be daunting, and employers and insurers can question the cause of many illnesses to deny claims.

The Raleigh workers’ compensation attorneys at Hardison & Cochran are here to guide you through the entire process and demand all the benefits you deserve. Contact an occupational disease lawyer for a FREE personalized consultation today. We represent injured workers and ill workers across North Carolina, including those located in Raleigh, Cary, Wake County, Research Triangle Park, Durham, the Triangle, Fayetteville, Dunn, Southern Pines, Greensboro, the Triad, Person County, and Wilmington. Phone 252-333-3333 or reach out online now.