An occupational disease is a result of employment.
The test to determine whether a disease is an occupational disease is whether that disease was contracted from a work environment or from the products an employee came into contact with because of his or her occupation.
Occupational Disease leading to Death
Some forms of occupational disease can cause death for an employee. As long as an illness can be linked to an occupation, at the very minimum, the estate of the decedent is entitled to workers’ compensation death benefits. Unless the relationship between employment and an employee’s death is obvious (which is rare in occupational disease claims), the workers’ compensation insurance company may deny the connection and oppose the payment of death benefits to that employee’s estate. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney should be consulted to determine whether it is worthwhile to contest the insurance company’s decision.
If an employee dies due to an occupational disease, the immediate family members may have a basis for filing a claim for wrongful death against the party creating the harm. While employers are under an obligation to provide a safe work environment in Pennsylvania, an employee cannot sue their employer unless the negligence of the employer was reckless or criminal, which can be very difficult to prove. However, there might be a company or person other than the employer who caused the occupational disease, and worker’s compensation does not preclude this type of lawsuit.
In Pennsylvania, the law provides an injured party with only two years to sue the party that caused them harm…with a very important exception that is applied often in occupational disease cases. This exception is called the ‘Discovery Rule’.
Because it is complicated and difficult to prove that an employer was reckless or acted criminally, or to prove that exposure to a chemical was the cause of a person’s injury or death, it is critical that the personal representative or executor of an estate promptly retain an work accident law firm who is experienced or knowledgeable about how to pursue occupational disease death claims. The sooner your attorney can gather and preserve the evidence in an occupational disease death claim, the better the estate’s chance of succeeding. Attorney Jon Ostroff can help assure that you have the right legal team investigate a possible claim for you, and all of the expense for experts, investigators, medical and other records, etc., will be paid by Jon and his team if they do not pursue a claim and obtain a recovery for your loved one’s estate.
Statute of Limitations for Occupational Disease Death Cases in Pennsylvania and the Discovery Rule
In many occupational disease death cases, it is critical that the personal representative for an estate never assume that the statute of limitations will block an occupational disease death claim. In Pennsylvania, the law provides an injured party with only two years to sue the party that caused them harm — with a very important exception that is applied often in occupational disease cases. This exception is called the “Discovery Rule.”
Under the discovery rule, if an employee did not know or discover that they were exposed at their occupation to something that led to the disease or ailment that injured or killed them, than they have two years from the date of discovery to file a complaint or writ of summons.
Examples of Discovery Rule extending the Statute of Limitations
If a widow learns through her local news that a plant that her husband worked in had asbestos in the walls, and this was not known until the plant was under construction 10 years after he died from a disease caused by asbestos exposure, then the decedent’s widow may still have up to two years to file a claim on behalf of her husband’s estate against the company that manufactured the asbestos.
Or perhaps it was discovered and made known to a community that a local company at plant “A” was polluting groundwater, and that this same water was regularly used and consumed by employees at plant “B” only 100 yards away. If this pollution problem was not discovered until 15 years after an employee at plant “B” died from the toxins put in the water by company “A,” the personal representative for this employee’s estate may still have up to two years to sue company “A” on behalf of that estate.
Therefore, even if quite a few years have passed since you lost your loved one, but a new discovery has occurred about something specific that may have caused your loved one’s death, call Jon Ostroff to discuss this. Jon will help you determine whether the discovery rule may apply to a claim on behalf of your loved one’s estate. Jon has been able to help clients whose loved one died under these types of circumstances.
Examples of Different Various Occupational Disease Claims
Generally any disease or condition which is contracted or aggravated due to the nature of the employment may be covered under the workers’ compensation laws. Some common types of potentially fatal occupational diseases are:
- Byssinosis among textile industry employees.
- Radiation-related diseases in workers exposed to nuclear materials.
- Infections received at a hospital by employees there.
- Illness for workers exposed to insulation, hazardous chemicals, and other harsh manufacturing agents.
- Asbestosis and mesothelioma amongst miners and persons employed in buildings with asbestos.
- Black lung or pneumoconiosis among mining industry employees.
If an employee dies as a result of an occupational disease, that employee’s surviving spouse or minor children are entitled to receive death benefits through workers’ compensation. In some instances, if a company or person other than that employer caused the fatality, a much more substantial recovery may be possible. If you are a personal representative for your loved one’s estate and you suspect he or she may have died due to a job-related illness, you owe it to yourself and your loved one to have Jon help you figure out what really happened.
For nearly 25 years, Jon Ostroff has been representing the estates of over 100 children and adults who have died across Pennsylvania as a result of someone else’s negligence. Jon will spend the time and money it takes to figure out what happened to your loved one. If unable to recover money for your loved one’s estate, Jon will pay these costs.
Jon Ostroff’s ability to find the evidence that wins cases has earned him his distinguished reputation across Pennsylvania as a wrongful death attorney.