Under Arkansas law, if a person suffers from an occupational disease and is disabled or dies as a result of their condition, the employee or his survivors are entitled to workers’ compensation payments just like they would be if the worker was injured on the job. In order to qualify, the disease needs to be related to the nature of the occupation in which he was employed or naturally follow from a work-related injury. This means that no compensation is paid for an ordinary disease to which the general public is exposed. Also, if an occupational disease is aggravated by any other disease, the compensation paid is limited to the amount of the illness that can be attributed to the occupational disease.
Workers’ compensation also covers an occupational disease where disablement or death occurs within one year of the last exposure to the disease. Exceptions to this rule are diseases caused by exposure to X rays, radioactive substances or ionizing radiation. Cases of silicosis or asbestosis have an extended time limit of three years. Alternatively, if the worker is continuously ill from the occupational disease and dies within seven years of his last known exposure, his survivors may still be able to collect compensation.
Silicosis — a lung disease caused by inhalation of silica dust — and asbestosis — caused by inhalation of asbestos fibers — get special treatment under workers’ compensation law due to the latency periods associated with these conditions. In order to be compensated, the worker needs conclusive evidence that he has been exposed to the dust for five of the 10 years immediately before he gets sick.
However, the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission can actually take measures to limit exposure to these materials in the hope preserving an individual’s health by limiting their exposure to the toxic substance. If the Commission finds that a worker is not yet sick but is affected by silicosis or asbestosis, the Commission may order that he be removed from his employment to prevent continued exposure to the hazards of the disease. In such a case, the worker may be entitled to compensation if he can’t find other suitable work at the same wage rate.
Occupational diseases can cause great hardship in the lives of working men or women and their families. If you suffer from an occupational disease, don’t appear before the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission alone; call an experienced workers’ compensation attorney today.