No workplace is completely immune to accidents. Some jobs, like construction, are known to be especially dangerous, with high rates of disabling or life-threatening injuries. Others, like desk jobs that involve sitting for long periods of time, have health risks that are easier to ignore, but still serious.
One of the most serious workplace hazards, and one of the most overlooked, is exposure to harmful chemicals. This can happen to people who work in factories or chemical processing plants, but it can also happen when a coworker lights up a cigarette on company property.
As the dangers of secondhand smoke become more apparent, non-smoking employees who are exposed to cigarette smoke at work will want to consider their options. For employees who have already been harmed by exposure, workers’ compensation may be an option.
Workers’ compensation for secondhand smoke exposure
Workers’ compensation is the system that compensates employees who have been injured on the job, or while performing job-related duties. The system also protects employers from personal injury lawsuits, even in cases of gross negligence. Rather than using the courts to resolve these cases, employers file an insurance claim on behalf of the injured worker.
Unlike a personal injury lawsuit, a workers’ compensation claim does not require evidence of fault on the part of the employer. As long as the injury was work-related, the employee has a valid claim for compensation.
This doesn’t mean that receiving workers’ compensation for a smoke-related illness is always easy. While employees don’t have to prove negligence, they do have to prove that their injury or illness is work-related. This may not be difficult for workplace accidents, especially if their witnesses. But when a condition develops gradually, like most of those caused by tobacco smoke, proof is harder to come by.
However, that doesn’t mean that you’re not entitled to compensation. If secondhand smoke is the cause of your illness, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you.
Nothing in worker’s compensation law supports this practice. While pre-existing conditions are not technically covered, new or worsening symptoms may be covered if they are caused by your work environment. Your claim is not invalid simply because a prior health issue put you at a higher than normal risk of injury.
When to get help
If your claim isn’t going the way you expected, you may want to consult a worker’s compensation attorney. This can greatly improve the outcome of your case, especially if your employer is making things difficult for you. For a free consultation, contact our offices by phone, email, or text message today!