Under Missouri workers’ compensation law, an “occupational disease” is an identifiable disease that arises out of and during the course of employment. While occupational diseases fall under an employee’s workers’ compensation coverage, actually recovering this compensation is not easy.
Occupational Diseases Under Missouri’s Workers’ Compensation Law
Workers in Missouri who have been exposed to debilitating or deadly diseases at work are entitled to receive compensation through the state’s workers’ compensation system. Missouri Statute 287.067 defines these occupational diseases as, “an identifiable disease arising… out of and in the course of the employment.”
These are distinct from workplace injuries that are the results of an accident. Under Missouri Statute 287.020(2), these injuries come from an “unexpected traumatic event or unusual strain identifiable by time and place of occurrence.”
The big difference between the two is that occupational diseases are medical conditions that develop slowly, rather than all at once.
Some examples of occupational diseases in Missouri are:
- Coal worker's pneumoconiosis,
- Brochiolitis obliterans,
- Acute myelogenous leukemia,
- Myelodysplastic syndrome,
- Injuries caused by repetitive motion,
- Hearing loss from prolonged exposure to harmful levels of noise at work, and
- Injuries from exposure to radiation or X-rays.
Employer Notice and Claim Filing Requirements
Precisely because occupational diseases take time to develop, the process of asking for workers’ compensation to cover its costs is complicated.
Just like workers hurt in an accident, workers who have suffered from an occupational disease have 30 days to notify their employer of the injuries. However, for people suffering from an occupational disease, this timeframe begins when the injury is diagnosed, not when the injury happens.
The statute of limitations for filing a workers’ compensation claim with the Missouri Department of Labor is even vaguer. The claim has to be filed before 2 years have passed since the occupational disease could have been reasonably discovered and connected to workplace exposure.
Harsh Limits on What Amounts to an Occupational Disease
These filing requirements are not the only obstacles that workers face in recovering compensation for a workplace disease.
Missouri law has some strict limitations on what can constitute an occupational disease. They do not include “ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is exposed outside of the employment,” unless that “ordinary” disease is the result of an underlying “occupational” disease. Furthermore, to be an occupational disease covered by workers’ compensation, it must originate in a workplace risk. Finally, the exposure in the workplace has to be the “prevailing factor” in the medical condition and the disability.
As we will show in a future blog post, because the burden of proof falls on the worker, all of these limitations drastically undercut a worker’s ability to recover compensation when their disabilities are the result of an occupational disease, rather than a workplace injury that happened at a single point in time.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
Occupational diseases are life-altering and often life-threatening medical conditions. Because they only happened because you were at work, you deserve to receive workers’ compensation for them.