In Maryland, a worker who suffers from a disease as a result of working condition to which they were exposed may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Such an injury is called an occupational disease, and can include diseases such as cancer, asbestosis, hypertension, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission reports that each year, about 23,000 Maryland residents file a claim for workers’ compensation. An experienced Maryland workers’ compensation attorney may be able to help you if you believe you are suffering from an occupational disease.
Workers’ Compensation Claims for Occupational Diseases
In Maryland workers’ compensation law, an injury can either be an accidental injury or an occupational disease. Occupational diseases are different than accidental injuries in that an occupational disease typically develops more slowly than the latter. An occupational disease can be an illness, ailment, or disorder. Likewise, an occupational disease naturally results from working under the conditions to which the claimant was exposed.
In order to make a claim for workers’ compensation from an occupational disease, a claimant must prove either 1) that the disease resulted from hazards that actually exist or existed in the place of work, or 2) that the manifestations of the disease are consistent with those known to result from a physical, biological, or chemical agent. An occupational disease must be caused by, and not simply aggravated by, the conditions of employment.
Occupational Disease Presumptions in Maryland
It is the job of a Maryland workers’ compensation attorney to present evidence about the conditions of employment and connect that evidence to the disease or the causes of the disease. However, for some types of workers, and for certain diseases, the Maryland legislature has stepped in and created an evidentiary presumption that the disease is caused by the employment.
A presumption is a legal term that means a court can assume a fact is true, as long as there is not sufficient evidence to prove that fact is not true. With regard to occupational disease and workers’ compensation, that fact is that that the disease from which a workers’ compensation suffers is an occupational disease.
Who Benefits From a Presumption of Occupational Disease?
For example, there is a presumption in Maryland that for firefighters who develop certain types of cancer, the cancer is an occupational disease. A recent article from the Baltimore sun highlights how this presumption has recently been the subject of public debate, largely because local governments see the presumption as too generous. Whether a worker has a statutory presumption can depend on the county in which they are employed, but generally other groups that benefit from a presumption include Fire Marshals, Rescue Squad Members, Police Officers, Sheriffs, and Correctional Officers.
What Types of Compensation Can a Claimant Get for an Occupational Disease?
Persons who are suffering from an occupational disease in Maryland can receive workers’ compensation benefits for:
1) Temporary partial disability – these benefits can be awarded to employees who are injured but not totally disabled, and who can perform limited or part-time duties.
2) Temporary total disability – these benefits can be awarded to employees who are totally disabled but will eventually recover.
3) Permanent partial disability – these benefits can be awarded to workers who are permanently partially disabled.
4) Permanent total disability – these benefits can be awarded to workers who are permanently totally disabled. A total disability would include, for example, the loss of use of both arms or both legs.
5) Medical/Hospitalization benefits – these benefits can include hospital and nursing services and medicine.
6) Wage reimbursement benefits – an injured worker can receive wages lost as a result of their injury.
7) Vocational rehabilitation benefits – an injured worker can receive training or services to rehabilitate their recovery.
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