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Occupational Disease & California Workers’ Compensation

Passionate California Workers’ Compensation Attorney Helping California Workers Secure Coverage for Work-Related Illness

Not all workers’ compensation claims result from a slip and fall or other impact-related accident.  California law requires employers to provide insurance covering all injuries and illnesses employees suffer as a result of their work.  However, proving that an illness qualifies for workers’ compensation coverage is far trickier than claims based on workplace injuries.  California law distinguishes between “occupational” and “non-occupational” disease, and even within covered diseases, workers must demonstrate adequate causation.

The California workers’ compensation law firm Invictus Law Firm is ready to bring your workers’ compensation claim based on workplace disease.  You should not be left to your own devices when suffering from an illness contracted in the workplace or otherwise caused by your job.  Our dedicated occupational disease legal team is here to help you get the benefits you are owed.

Occupational vs. Non-Occupational Disease

In order to bring a workers’ compensation claim based on occupational disease, a worker must show not only that they have a given illness, but also that the illness arose as a result of the employee performing their work duties.  If an employee contracts a disease such as lung cancer and works in an environment that could be conducive to lung cancer, but the employee is also a chronic smoker, they will have to demonstrate that the illness arose as a result of work and not as a result of private conduct.  If an employee suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome because of their job tasks, or if they contract asbestosis from exposure in the workplace, then they might claim workers’ compensation.

It is not, however, sufficient that an illness may have been contracted in the workplace.  For the purposes of workers’ compensation, the illness must arise from the specific conditions presented by a particular type of work (such as a nuclear technician’s exposure to radiation) or a particular workplace (such as working in a building with asbestos).  Exposure to a common illness such as the flu or the common cold, even if it occurred in the workplace, will generally not give rise to a workers’ compensation claim.

Typical Occupational Diseases

Workers’ compensation covers a wide variety of illnesses that employees contract in the workplace.  Invictus Law Firm helps clients suffering from all manner of occupational illness, including the following:

  • Cancer
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Tennis elbow
  • Asthma
  • Mesothelioma
  • Asbestosis
  • Radiation poisoning
  • Lung disease
  • Occupational dermatitis such as eczema
  • Hearing loss
  • Heart disease
  • Respiratory illnesses such as chronic bronchitis and tuberculosis
  • Skin cancer

COVID-19 and Workers’ Compensation

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our daily lives.  Laws and insurance policies are struggling to keep up with the myriad issues that the pandemic has raised, from sick leave to business interruption insurance coverage.  Workers’ compensation law and policy raise a significant question as to whether and when a worker who contracts the novel coronavirus from exposure at the workplace may be able to claim workers’ compensation.

As discussed above, common infectious illnesses such as the seasonal flu are generally considered non-occupational because they do not result from the specific conditions of a given workplace.  The novel coronavirus appears to fall into this category:  In most workplaces coronavirus exposure is a possibility, but in the same way that workers may catch the common cold from one another.  The fact that the novel coronavirus is a deadly disease spreading as a pandemic does not, unfortunately, make the difference.

There are, however, several large exceptions to the rule.  A workers’ compensation claim may arise from a typically non-occupational disease where:

  • The employment subjects the employee to an increased risk compared to the general public; or
  • The immediate cause of the injury is the intervening human agency or instrumentality of the employee.

If an employee could show that their workplace was an especially contagious coronavirus hot spot, they might be able to bring a claim.  Additionally, workers who are more likely to face coronavirus exposure due to the nature of their employment–such as medical workers–can likely bring a claim under the first exception.  Under the second exception, if a worker contracts the coronavirus and then suffers a worse injury as a result of being forced to continue working, they might be able to secure workers’ compensation.


For help getting the care and compensation you need after contracting an occupational disease while performing your job duties in Orange County or the Inland Empire, call Invictus Law, P.C. in Orange or Ontario at 949-287-5711 or 888-9-WORKLAW for a free consultation with a dedicated and effective California workers’ compensation lawyer.

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