Many workers develop medical conditions that cause significant pain and occur over time, as a result of their work activities but do not file a workers' compensation claim because they can't pinpoint a specific "injury." These hardworking Montanans try to "work through the pain" and miss the opportunity to get workers' compensation benefits they are due if the condition is a result of their work. Our workers' compensation lawyers are experienced with Montana's workers' compensation laws and are here to answer your questions.
When a worker falls off a ladder during the course and scope of his/her employment, it is obvious that a "work injury" has occurred from a "accident" at work. Accidents are identifiable by a specific time and place of occurrence and caused by a specific event on a single day or during a single work shift. These are injuries under the Workers' Compensation Act.
If you did not have a "work injury" because of an accident on a specific day, but you suffer from a medical condition that developed over time because of your work, you are still entitled to a workers' compensation claim.
Under the Workers' Compensation Act, an "occupational disease" is when you have "harm, damage, or death arising out of or contracted in the course and scope of employment caused by events occurring on more than a single day or work shift." An example of an occupational disease is carpal tunnel syndrome that happens because of repetitive use of the hands at work. In fact, there are a multitude of medical conditions that are related to a worker's exposure to various stresses and strains that occur over time while they work. A condition that arises over time will be covered under the Workers' Compensation Act if the work activities are the "major contributing cause" to the condition. The condition must be diagnosed and shown through medical findings of a physician.
One thing that often trips workers up in an occupational disease claim is not having a medical provider saying that the individual's work activities are the "major contributing cause" for the disease, injury, or medical condition they are experiencing. Under the law "major contributing cause" means that the work activities are the leading cause when compared to other non-work activities. If you think you are experiencing physical harm from the work you do, you should discuss this with your doctor and tell them what job duties and work activities are causing you a problem.
You need to be aware that there is a time limit for filing an occupational disease. The law requires that the occupational disease claim must be presented to the employer, the employer's insurer, or the Department of Labor and Industry within 1 year from the date that you know or should know that the condition resulted from your work. This has occurred once a condition has been diagnosed and you know, or a doctor has told you, that it is related to your work. It is important to keep this time limit in mind to avoid losing your ability to file an occupational disease claim.
The best way to protect your right to benefits for an occupational disease is to discuss your situation with a qualified workers' compensation attorney. Occupational disease claims are sometimes not as obvious as a work injury, and there are many specific requirements that must be met to successfully advance your claim. We can guide you through each step in the process of working through an occupational disease claim and help you obtain the benefits you need.
If you have been injured at work and have questions about your workers' compensation rights, our workers' compensation lawyers have extensive experience in this space. At Odegaard Kovacich Snipes, we can advise you about your coverage and guide you through your options and opportunities. Contact us for a free consultation.
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