A common accidental injury occurs where a worker lifts something heavy (a box, a desk, a patient in a hospital bed, etc.) and injures his/her back. Accidental injuries usually involve a specific moment when the injury occurs. In some cases, an accidental injury can result over a period of time due to repetitive traumas at work. Such injuries are also compensable as accidents. The same injury may also constitute an occupational disease in some circumstances.
An “occupational disease” is legally different from an accident. However, not all illnesses or injuries contracted at work or from work are occupational diseases. The distinctive feature of an occupational disease is that it is an illness or injury particular to the type of employment in which the person is engaged. The Workers’ Compensation Law defines an occupational disease in Section 3 (2) as “… a disease resulting from the nature of employment and contracted therein.” The first question is, “What is the nature of this worker’s employment?” In other words, “What is this worker’s job?” For an illness or injury to be an occupational disease, the illness or injury must be one that workers in this line of work are particularly at risk of suffering. There must be a recognizable link between the disease and some distinctive feature of the worker’s job. An example is a steamfitter who works for many years with pipes that are covered with asbestos and contracts asbestosis, a deadly cancer. Because steamfitters are particularly at risk of contracting asbestosis, due to the nature of their work (they routinely work with pipes that are covered in asbestos) asbestosis is an occupational disease for a steamfitter. On the other hand, if a security guard who for many years walks in a basement corridor at work that exposes him to asbestos, and he contracts asbestosis, his illness is not an occupational disease because asbestosis is not an illness that security guards are particularly at risk of suffering. An occupational disease relates to the type of work a person does (“the nature of employment”) not the environmental conditions of where he/she works. This does not mean the security guard does not have a remedy, his/her Legal Representative could argue that the illness is compensable as an accident. Section 48 of the Workers’ Compensation Law essentially states, that if a disease does not qualify as an occupational disease, it may still be compensable as an accident.
A common misconception is that exposure to an unhealthy work environment renders the resulting injury compensable as an occupational disease. The exposureis not enough.
An occupational disease is a condition, which derives from the very nature of the employment and not from an environmental condition specific to the place of work. For example, an administrative assistant who suffers from asthma due to unclear air in an unventilated building has not suffered an occupational disease. This worker must claim his/her illness is an accident.
There are injuries that are occupational diseases for administrative assistants (carpal tunnel syndrome, for example) but the work of administrative assistants do not particularly place them at risk for contracting asthma. The work of bakers, on the other hand, does place bakers (because of what they do) at risk for contracting a disease known as baker’s asthma. Another example is a tunnel worker who contracts caisson disease. The worker has suffered an occupational disease, because caisson disease is a particular risk of the work of tunnel workers.
Many claims recently established as occupational diseases involve people who perform repetitive work with their hands, such as administrative assistants, secretaries, data-entry workers, typists, dental assistants, technicians, etc. Doctors refer to such injuries as repetitive stress injuries, or RSI’s. The most common repetitive stress injury is carpal tunnel syndrome.
If you choose to accept Workers’ Compensation Benefits you can not sue your employer.
However . . . If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident with another car you might be able to file a lawsuit with the driver of the other car.
We frequently represent Workers' Compensation cases in Long Island New York (NY) including, Albertson, Bethpage, Dix Hills, Elmwood,Huntington, Huntington Station, Levittown, Westbury, South Huntington, Hicksville, Bayville, Glenncove, Merrick, Bellmore, Syossett, Jericho, Plainview, Roslyn, Roslyn Heights, Deer Park, Glenn Head, New Hyde Park, Manhasset, Farmingdale, Hauppague, Patchague, Deer Park, east Meadow, Mellville. In Queens we often help people in Flushing, Jamaica, Douglaston, Long Island City