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Am I Entitled to Benefits if I Was Exposed to Mercury, Lead or Asbestos?

hazardous chemical containerThere are many types of jobs that put people at risk for exposure to toxic chemicals, including jobs in factories, construction and manufacturing, auto repair, and the agriculture industry, to name just a few. Exposure can be gradual and not caused by one specific incident or accident. This makes some workers unsure if they qualify for workers' compensation benefits.

The experienced Fresno workers’ compensation attorneys at Berry, Smith & Bartell can help you understand your rights if you develop an occupational disease due to exposure to toxic chemicals. We can assist you with all aspects of your claim. Schedule your free legal consultation right now.

What to Do if You Are Exposed to Toxic Chemicals

If you are exposed to toxic chemicals, there are certain steps that you can take to protect your workers' compensation claim, including:

Seeking Medical Attention Right Away

Do not hesitate to seek medical treatment. When it comes to toxic chemical exposure, you want to catch it quickly and start treatment. In many cases, the longer you are exposed to something toxic, the greater the risk of serious injury.

As soon as you believe you may have been exposed to something that is toxic at work, go to the doctor and explain your suspicion. Tell the physician you think your injuries are work-related.

If you delay seeking medical treatment, you may find it difficult to link your chemical exposure to your injury. When there is a gap between the discovery of an injury or exposure to toxic chemicals, it arouses suspicion among workers' compensation insurers. They may think you are just trying to get money and are not seriously hurt. This could result in your claim being denied or devalued, preventing you from receiving all the compensation you deserve. 

Quickly Reporting Your Injury to Your Employer

You can lose your right to receive workers’ compensation benefits if you do not give your employer written notification within 30 days after seeing the doctor. However, as with medical treatment, it is best to not delay. Tell your employer right away because it helps to demonstrate the seriousness of your situation. This will help convince the workers' compensation insurer about your injury and could help make the process less difficult.

Filing Your Claim Immediately

For most workers’ compensation claims, the deadline to file your claim is based on the date of your injury. (You have one year from the date of injury to file a claim.) This date may be clearer if you are injured by an accident.

However, in the event of exposure to a toxic substance like asbestos or lead, the exposure date may not be obvious. This is why it is best to start the process right away. The one-year clock could begin to run after you see the doctor, the date you first missed work, or the date you knew or should have known your injury was caused by your job.

Types of Toxic Chemicals in Workplaces

There are many examples of toxic chemicals in the workplace that could cause workers to develop illnesses or medical conditions, such as: 

  • Lead
  • Uranium
  • Mercury
  • Carbon disulfide
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Benzene
  • Asbestos
  • Radon
  • Arsenic
  • Cyanide
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls
  • Nickel
  • Chromium
  • Carbon tetrachloride

 These chemicals can affect different systems in the body in a negative way. These systems can include the:

  • Respiratory system
  • Renal system (kidneys and bladder)
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Reproductive system
  • Nervous system
  • Immune system
  • Skin
  • Hepatic system, which breaks down food and stores nutrients

Some of the problems that can occur in these systems when toxic chemicals and substances are introduced into the body include: 

  • Lung cancer
  • Emphysema
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Kidney cancer
  • Damage to the kidneys
  • Decreased blood flow to the kidneys
  • Heart failure
  • Infertility
  • Difficulties having children
  • Increased risk of birth defects
  • Trouble with muscle strength and coordination

Jobs with a High Risk for Toxic Chemical Exposure

While employees from various industries may be exposed to toxic chemicals, there are some jobs with a higher risk of toxic exposure.

  • Miners – Mining, drilling or blasting jobs can expose workers to harmful dusts, like asbestos dust and silica. This can cause them to develop serious diseases like lung cancer and mesothelioma. These employees may also be more likely to be exposed to uranium and radon, which can expose workers to an increased risk of numerous cancers.
  • Construction workers – These workers may encounter a variety of occupational hazards, including wood dust and silica from products like concrete, cement, insulation and drywall products. This exposure can result in cancer, dermatitis and asthma, among other medical conditions.
  • Agricultural workers – Workers who are frequently exposed to engine exhaust, pesticides and fertilizers are at an increased risk of developing leukemia, lymphoma and several other types of cancer. Farmer’s lung is an allergic disease that is caused by exposure to mold spores or bacteria found in crops.
  • Mechanics – Mechanics are also subjected to several occupational hazards, including asbestos that is part of brake linings and clutches. Mechanics can also come into contact with petrol, which contains benzene – a recognized cause of many cancers.
  • Metalworkers – Fluids that are meant to prevent metals from overheating can increase workers' risk of developing cancer. This occupation is associated with an increased risk of kidney and larynx cancer.
  • Chemical factory workers – Chemical factory workers may be exposed to any number of dangerous chemicals, including benzidine, arsenic and beta-naphthylamine. These chemicals are linked to an increased risk of cancer.
  • Manicurists – Chemicals used for manicures, pedicures and similar procedures have been linked to serious medical problems, including cancer, lymphoma, respiratory problems, skin problems and miscarriages. Formalin, which is used to harden nails and titanium dioxide that is common in nail polishes are particularly concerning.

Contact an Attorney Today for Assistance

Workers’ compensation claims based on exposure to toxic chemicals can be complex and difficult to prove. Linking your illness to your job could be particularly difficult.

The skilled attorneys at Berry, Smith & Bartell have a detailed understanding of the many issues involved in pursuing a workers’ compensation claim for a toxic chemical injury. If you would like assistance with your workers’ compensation claim, we can discuss your legal rights during a free consultation. We charge no upfront fees unless we recover compensation for your claim.

For a free case evaluation with Berry, Smith & Bartell, a Professional Law Corporation call 1-800-848-6288 today!

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