Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers

Occupational Illness

An occupational illness is a condition, ailment, or disease that develops slowly over time due to conditions present in the workplace, such as exposure to an irritant or toxins. An occupational illness is one of two clear categories of work-related injury or disablement under Maryland Workers’ Compensation law. Accidental injury is the other one. A claim for compensation must be in one of the two; the injury cannot fall into both categories or between the two categories.

Workers in all types of industries may be at high risk for occupational diseases. A worker may not notice the effects of exposure for many years and not everybody responds the same way to the same substances. Exposure to dust or pesticides, fumes from welding tools or diesel fuel, and fibers from carpeting materials or asbestos insulation can all be harmful to the workers around them. The effects of exposure can be lasting and debilitating, and sometimes even fatal.

Examples of occupational illness include:

  • Asbestosis – a danger for construction workers working on older buildings where asbestos may be present.
  • Bronchiolitis obliterans or Popcorn lung – a serious lung disease that develops in workers in microwave popcorn plants and others who handle flavorings. Butter flavorings in food products such as frostings, chips, and margarines pose a risk of popcorn lung for the workers exposed to them.
  • Byssinosis or brown lung – a lung disease found in cotton, flax and hemp workers.
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – COPD is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
  • Farmer’s lung – an allergy to mold and bacteria found in crops that produces asthma like symptoms, but can also cause permanent lung damage that can be fatal.
  • Flock worker’s lung – flock is the result of cutting nylon fibers into small strands which are used for carpeting, blankets and upholstery. Inhaling the fibers every day can cause inflammation and scarring of the lungs.
  • Silicosis – commonly known as miner’s lung.
  • Silo filler’s disease – caused by inhaling the toxic gas from crops fermenting in silos.

Exposure to toxins may cause occupational illness. Many workplaces contain toxic chemicals and hazardous substances that pose a risk to workers. Common toxins found in workplaces throughout the nation include:

  • Arsenic
  • Beryllium
  • Benzene
  • Herbicides
  • Lead
  • Manganese (present in welding fumes)
  • Mercury
  • Nitroglycerin
  • Pesticides


Generally, in Workers’ Compensation claims, the burden of proof is with the claimant to demonstrate the cause of occupational illness. Under Maryland Workers’ Compensation law, some workers who have been diagnosed with certain illnesses are “presumed” to have contracted the illness through work-related activity. In these cases, the burden of proof is shifted to the insurance company who must show that the illness was not caused by the occupation. Occupations and illnesses that fall under this rule include:

  • Park Employees/Natural Resource Employees and Lyme Disease
  • Public Safety Employees and Heart Issues
  • Firefighters and Lung Disease/Cancer

There are specific time requirements mandated by law for park employees and firefighters. For these cases and for cancer cases, which insurance companies tend to try to deny, it is advisable to seek the counsel of an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer in Baltimore.

Filing a Claim

A successful Workers’ Compensation claim for occupational illness must show one of two things – either that the illness is truly occupational because the hazards of the disease exist in your workplace, or that your disease and its symptoms are linked to a chemical agent or other physical or biological agents that can be attributed to your employment. Once this is established, there must be a reasonable conclusion that the illness is a result of your employment. Finally, you must prove that the illness has resulted in some type of disability.


Occupational illnesses generally develop slowly and it may be an extended time before symptoms arise and a correct diagnosis is made. As such, when a worker falls ill, he or she may be working for a different employer than the one wherein exposure to the toxin occurred. The employer who is responsible for compensation will be the one for whom the claimant was working at the time of the so called “last injurious exposure” to the cause of the occupational illness.

Compensation Benefits

If your claim is successful you may receive some or all of the following benefits:

  • Medical – including medical treatment and surgery, prescription medicines, hospitalization and nursing care, medical equipment such as crutches, and prostheses
  • Wage loss benefits – whether you are totally or partially disabled, you will be compensated for a portion of lost income
  • Death benefits – paid to surviving dependents in the case of a fatality

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Fight for Workers Affected by an Occupational Illness

Occupational illness claims are complex and have specific time restrictions for filing. At LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton, our Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers have the experience to ensure you receive the best possible outcome for your claim. Call 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online. We help injured workers in Baltimore and throughout the state of Maryland.