Latent Diagnosis of Work Injury or Illness
Workers’ compensation claims in Massachusetts need to be filed as soon as possible in order to bolster one’s chance of benefit recovery. MGL c. 152 § 41 spells out the statute of limitations on workers’ compensation claims and requires these actions be brought within four years.
Workers' compensation attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman do realize, however, there are certain situations in which workers don’t immediately recognize their illness or injury was the result of a work-related condition or hazard. In these cases, there is a provision of the law that gives these individuals some leeway in the collection of benefits.
Some examples of conditions for which there may be a delay in either diagnosis or identification of causation:
- Lead Poisoning
- Black Lung (pneumoconiosis)
- Mesothelioma and Asbestosis
- Skin Cancer
- Lung Cancer
- Occupational Asthma
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Knee Injuries
- Hip Injuries
- Repetitive Strain Injuries
- Hearing Loss
- Traumatic Brain Injury
Many of these injuries do not manifest until many years after exposure, or else they develop over a long period of time. This makes identifying causation a difficult – but not impossible task. In other cases, the worker may have been aware of the injury or illness, but had no evidence until much later that the cause was indeed work-related.
One of the first factors that a workers’ compensation insurer will evaluate is the duration of the worker’s medical condition. Some of the most complex cases are those in which a worker was employed for years at different employers within the same industry in which they were exposed to the same types of hazards. It may be impossible to know exactly when the disease or injury began to accrue. However, if there is evidence one’s current employment contributed to a condition that was pre-existing, benefits may be awarded.
Some of the common features of these cases include:
- Long reporting delays since exposure
- Gradual exposure
- No clear event date
In these situations, it is imperative that ailing workers hire a legal team with extensive experience in this area of law. These challenges can make it difficult to secure coverage. Our law firm has successfully filed numerous latent workplace injury and illness cases on behalf of clients. We recognize that while the statute of limitations is strictly followed, workers in these cases can still obtain coverage.Massachusetts Laws on Latent Work Injuries
Workers are expected to report their work-related injuries and illnesses to their employer as soon as possible after an incident. From there, the employer has 30 days in which to inform the insurance company. If the employer refuses to do so, workers can file this notice on their own.
However, workers have a four-year window in which they can file a claim, per MGL c. 152 § 41.
The law states that for injuries or illnesses that occur on or after Jan. 1, 1986, claims have to be filed within four years “of the date employee becomes aware of the causal connection between their disability and their employment.”
Generally, the courts have accepted this provision to mean when the worker could be reasonably expected to have known not only of the injury but also of the role work duties played in causation. This is not only a simple matter. But this is why any ailing worker who even suspects a work-related cause should contact an attorney immediately to figure out the next step.
In cases where the ill or injured worker has died as a result of his or her condition, survivors/ dependents have to file a claim within four years of the death.
In cases where injuries occurred prior to 1986, the statute of limitations is just one year. This is regardless of the workers’ causal connection.Third-Party Claims for Latent Injuries
While it is important – and in some cases critical to some families’ financial survival – to pursue workers’ compensation coverage for latent injuries and illnesses, there may be some situations in which the worker may have grounds for additional, third-party claims.
Although there have been other states’ supreme courts (most recently, Pennsylvania) that have ruled the exclusive remedy provision of workers’ compensation law doesn’t bar workers from suing an employer for occupational exposure to toxic materials, Massachusetts isn’t among those. So usually workers’ compensation is the only remedy these individuals have against the employer.
But serious, chronic and/or terminal conditions like mesothelioma are often the result of work-related exposure wherein workers toiled with hazardous materials and were not warned by the manufacturer of the danger. This can give rise to product liability actions or other tort lawsuits.
Having a reputable, successful law firm that can simultaneously help you with all possible claims for recovery is invaluable.
Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation.
Call (617) 367-2900 – NO FEE UNLESS SUCCESSFUL