If you work in an environment that forces you to be around smokers, be on the lookout for any symptoms that may indicate a health problem.
The purpose of workers compensation insurance is to help employees cover their medical expenses and lost wages when they suffer a work-related injury or illness. It generally doesn’t matter if the accident was preventable or not. If you can prove that the harm is real and a result of your job, then you are entitled to workers compensation. By that logic, exposure to toxins, such as second-hand smoke can constitute a basis for a compensation claim.
Here is where things can get a bit tricky. Although the number of compensation benefits awarded for Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) has increased in the last few years, proving that the work environment has indeed caused you medical problems or worsened a pre-existing condition can be difficult. These cases require indisputable evidence and extended knowledge of the law, it therefore a good idea to speak with an experienced St. Louis workers compensation attorney to ensure your legal right to compensation is protected.
The Difficulty of Secondhand Smoke in Workers Compensation Claims
Most people are aware of the dangers of secondhand smoke. Study after study has proven that ETS contains the same toxins and carcinogens as the smoke inhaled by smokers. Granted, the concentration level is different, but the health effects can be just as bad.
Although most work environments nowadays are smoke-free, there are instances when the nature of the business requires employees to perform their job in a setting where smoking is permitted.
If you think that ETS has affected your health, then you should consider filing for workers compensation benefits. Keep in mind that you will have to prove that your illness is a direct result of the work environment, and that’s not an easy task. You will need to provide very specific documentation that shows your employees that the exposure to secondhand smoke has caused your health problems or exacerbated your symptoms.
Filing workers compensation for second-hand smoke exposure is rather rare, so you will need an experienced lawyer on your side to help you gather the proper medical documentation and build a strong case. Here is what you will need:
- A diagnosis for a medical condition that has been proven to be caused or worsened by ETS exposure;
- A thorough medical report that confirms that connection between your condition and exposure to secondhand smoke;
- Proof that the nature of your job forces you to work in an environment where tobacco smoke is prevalent;
- Proof that exposure to secondhand smoke is limited outside work.
Another thing that you need to keep in mind is that the longer you wait to make your claim the chances of receiving workers compensation benefits decrease dramatically. Because of the statute of limitations, it may be difficult to file a claim if the exposure happened a years ago. That’s one of the things that make these cases so sensitive. More often than not, the symptoms of secondhand exposure show over time when it may be too late to file for compensation.
What Can You Do?
If you work in an environment that forces you to be around smokers, be on the lookout for any symptoms that may indicate a health problem. Know that you may be entitled to workers compensation benefits, but you may need legal help to get it. A St. Louis workers compensation lawyer can help you build a strong case. Give us a call 24/7 at (314) 361-4300 to set up a FREE case evaluation.