Occupational Diseases

Workers are frequently exposed to health risks on-the-job that over time can lead to disabling medical conditions.  These risks include exposure to chemicals or other harmful agents, and physical activities that are repetitive or otherwise damaging.  Suicide in NC workers' compUnder some circumstances these work related medical conditions can be covered under workers’ compensation in North Carolina as occupational diseases.

The proof required for a condition to be covered as an occupational disease in NC depends on whether the condition is one of those listed in North Carolina General Statute § 97-53.   An employee with one of these “listed” conditions needs only to prove that their employment caused or substantially contributed to the condition.  Employees with a condition that is not listed in § 97-53 must also show that their employment placed them at an increased risk as compared to the general public for developing the condition.

When an employee has been exposed to a particular health risk at more than one employer then the workers’ compensation claim lies with employer where the employee was last exposed.  There are complicated special rules for claims for asbestosis and silicosis as well as hearing loss.

Listed Occupational Diseases

Certain specific medical conditions, which are acknowledged to be commonly associated with workplace exposures, are specifically identified in North Carolina General Statute § 97-53 as occupational diseases.  The “listed” diseases are as follows:

  • Anthrax.
  • Arsenic poisoning.
  • Brass poisoning.
  • Zinc poisoning.
  • Manganese poisoning.
  • Lead poisoning. Provided the employee shall have been exposed to the hazard of lead poisoning for at least 30 days in the preceding 12 months’ period; and, provided further, only the employer in whose employment such employee was last injuriously exposed shall be liable.
  • Mercury poisoning.
  • Phosphorus poisoning.
  • Poisoning by carbon bisulphide, menthanol, naphtha or volatile halogenated hydrocarbons.
  • Chrome ulceration.
  • Compressed-air illness.
  • Poisoning by benzol, or by nitro and amido derivatives of benzol (dinitrolbenzol, anilin, and others).
  • Epitheliomatous cancer or ulceration of the skin or of the corneal surface of the eve due to tar, pitch, bitumen, mineral oil, or paraffin, or any compound, product, or residue of any of these substances.
  • Radium poisoning or disability or death due to radioactive properties of substances or to roentgen rays, X rays or exposure to any other source of radiation; provided, however, that the disease under this subdivision shall be deemed to have occurred on the date that disability or death shall occur by reason of such disease.
  • Blisters due to use of tools or appliances in the employment.
  • Bursitis due to intermittent pressure in the employment.
  • Miner’s nystagmus.
  • Bone felon due to constant or intermittent pressure in employment.
  • Synovitis, caused by trauma in employment.
  • Tenosynovitis, caused by trauma in employment.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Poisoning by sulphuric, hydrochloric or hydrofluoric acid.
  • Asbestosis.
  • Silicosis.
  • Psittacosis.
  • Undulant fever.
  • Smallpox infection due to vaccinations.
  • Hearing loss caused by harmful noise in the work environment.
  • Diseases caused by chemical exposure in circumstances where the employment led to sufficient exposure to cause the disease.

Death Claims in NC Workers' CompWhen an employee develops one of the listed conditions it is presumed that the employment placed the employee at an increased risk for developing the condition.  To recover as an occupational disease under North Carolina Workers’ Compensation law, the employee must still prove that the employment significantly contributed to the development of the condition.

Other Occupational Diseases.

North Carolina General Statute § 97-53(13) is a “catch-all” provision which allows workers’ compensation for any disease “which is proven to be due to causes and conditions which are characteristic of and peculiar to a particular trade, occupation or employment, but excluding all ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is equally exposed outside of the employment.”  These diseases can include carpal tunnel and tendinitis, as well as degenerative conditions.

In order to qualify for NC workers’ compensation under the catch-all occupational disease provision the worker must show both 1) that the employment placed them at an increased risk as compared to the general public for developing the occupational disease; 2) that the employment in fact substantially contributed to the occupational disease.

Causation and Increased Risk.

In every occupational disease case in NC the claimant must prove causation.  It is not necessary to prove that the employment is the sole cause of the disease, only that the employment “significantly contributed” to developing the condition.  Workers’ compensation benefits may be allowed when exposure to a risk of employment aggravates or accelerates the development of a pre-existing disease.  The question is whether the disease would have developed to the extent that it causes physical disability if not for the workplace exposure. Proof of causation in an occupational disease claim under NC workers’ compensation almost always requires medical evidence, including the testimony of a doctor.

Claims for conditions other than the occupational diseases listed in North Carolina General Statute § 97-53, the worker must also prove increased risk.  Increased risk means that the employee was placed at a greater risk of contracting the condition than the public at large.  It is not necessary to prove that the risk exists only in the employment, only that the risk is greater there.  Medical or other expert evidence, such as the testimony of an ergonomics expert, is generally required to prove increased risk in occupational disease claims in North Carolina. A worker’s heightened sensitivity to a particular chemical, such as an allergy, does not create an increased risk for the purposes of recovering for an occupational disease in North Carolina.  In general, stress and anxiety in the workplace do not constitute an increased risk, so depression and other mental illness arising from the employment are generally not covered absent an underlying physical injury or occupational disease that is covered by workers’ comp.

Filing and Notice Requirements for Occupational Disease Claims.

Occupational diseases by their very nature usually develop over time.  For this reason, unless wage replacement benefits are paid pursuant to the Workers’ Compensation Act, an occupational disease claim must be filed with the North Carolina Industrial Commission within two years of the latter of 1) the date the employee is advised by a doctor that he or she has a work related disease, or 2) the date the employee is first disabled as a result of the condition.  If the employer or carrier has paid medical treatment for the disease the NC workers’ compensation claim may be filed within two years of the last payment of medical expenses.

Separate from the filing requirement, an injured employee should give written notice to his or her employer within thirty days of the latter of: 1) being advised by a doctor that he or she has an occupational disease; or 2) the first onset of disability related to the condition.  This is true even if the employer has actual notice of the injury. Click here for more information on Filing and Notice Requirements in NC Workers’ Compensation Cases.

Can we help you with your North Carolina Occupational Disease case? Occupational disease claims are legally and medically complex.  Many sick workers find their claims denied or are not receiving the medical treatment or disablity benefits they deserve. If you have questions about occupational disease claims in North Carolina workers’ compensation please call or email for a free consultation with Kevin Bunn, a Board Certified Expert in North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Law.

David Keeffe
David Keeffe
18:25 25 Jul 18
My experience with Mr. Bunn has been great. If I had to do it again he would be my first choice. He helped me get a fair settlement and always kept me informed.read more
Marc Tsukayama
Marc Tsukayama
13:26 19 Jul 18
I was injured at my workplace last year and went through Workmens' Comp for my medical treatment. At the end of that process I was offered a settlement that I had questions about. Kevin Bunn was referred to me by another lawyer that I trust. Mr Bunn took the time to listen to my story, asked questions that focused on the pertinent information and was able to clear up the questions that I had. He gave me some good solid advice while making me feel comfortable. I will refer anyone to give him a call about any Workmens' Comp questions.read more
James Hart
James Hart
21:08 07 Jun 18
I shared space with Kevin for several years and saw firsthand how he conducted business and treated his clients. He was honest, ethical, and forthright with his clients. Never hesitated to do the right thing on a case, even if it meant cutting his fees. If you are injured in a workplace accident, I highly recommend you contact Kevin.read more
Tran Tinh Lindberry
Tran Tinh Lindberry
20:16 02 May 18
I received great customer service and the communication with me was excellent. They were great with walking me through the process in way that I could understand. Mr. Bunn's paralegal, JoAnne was very helpful. I highly recommend Mr. Bunn to anyone with need of workers' compensation assistance.read more
Corey reed
Corey reed
15:44 28 Mar 18
The entire office staff is exceptional and wonderful to work with. I would highly recommend Mr. Bunn to anyone with workers' compensation needs.
Lori James
Lori James
19:34 23 Mar 18
First of all.. I want to thank God and my daughter to find such an awesome lawyer Mr.Bunn. I was kind of nervous meeting Mr. Bunn for the first time because he would ask me to explain from the beginning about my injury and ask me again the same questions. I have a very heavy accent and I know I speaks very fast at time. Sometime he would ask me the same question over again. So, I said to myself, this is not going to be a good lawyer for me. I found out that he want to know and understand what I was saying. The more I talk to Mr. Bunn the more i understand about the law. He would explain how workers compensation law is all about. The Insurance company was sending me check of what they believe was the right amount every week. Mr.Bunn recover the amount they were sending was wrong. So my weekly check was $150. Short the whole time. Thank you Mr. Bunn!!! Mr. Bunn will fight hard for you and his knowledge of how workers compensation works, it will speak for itself. I also want to thank his paralegal Ms. Joanne for taking my call and answering all questions I may have . she is always polite no matter what day of the week it is. she ask if i want water and always make me feel comfortable. I highly recommend Mr.Bunn as your lawyer if you want results. Other lawyers might be just all talk and no results. He will ask, understand and work hard for you then, get the results that will amaze you ! Lorelei Jamesread more
Annette Beane
Annette Beane
21:56 17 Mar 18
Mr Bunn and his assistant Joanne made this horrible experience really easy. Not pleasant as laws and lawyers do not equal fun, but reality. Reality is hard, Mr Bunn proved his knowledge of workers compensation laws and got me through this horrible experience. Hoping to never have to do this again, but I do know I'll ask Mr Bunn to represent me if needed.read more
Anne Lineberry
Anne Lineberry
00:13 16 Mar 18
Words cannot adequately express my gratitude for Kevin Bunn, and his awesome paralegal, Joanne. Kevin is an individual with character traits that a client would want from their attorney. He is kind, knowledgeable, straightforward, tough, professional and honest. When I was injured at work I had NO idea that I was about to embark on a legal battle with an employer whom I had LOVED to work for during the past thirty some years. I am a leader in my field including being National Board Certified. During those years I impacted thousands and had distinguished evaluations. All I wanted was a total knee replacement that my surgeon stated I needed as a result of the injury. I quickly found myself in the very complex world of workers compensation that left me overwhelmed and most importantly unvalued. Kevin made me feel very comfortable and knowledgeable about all the many situations involved in the case. I also feel I learned a lot from him to help others know their own rights as individuals. I traveled over two hours out of town just to get Kevin and I am so glad I did. I got the total knee replacement from the surgeon I wanted and have moved on with my life after close to a two year battle. I would HIGHLY recommend anyone looking for a Workers' Compensation attorney to hire Kevin Bunn!read more
jacob Maples
jacob Maples
02:51 10 Mar 18
Mr Bunn and his staff were very polite and took on my case after many other law offices turned it down due to some very special circumstances. I was treated like family and always kept up to date on the status of the case, mr Bunn was very polite and always returned my phone calls or emails. I would highly recommend mr Bunn and his staff.read more
Tina Phillips
Tina Phillips
12:55 04 Oct 17
Attorney Kevin Bunn and his paralegal JoAnne are amazing!! Both worked very close with me and kept me up to date on all information that was going on in my Workers' Comp case. They both treated me with the utmost respect. Mr. Kevin Bunn was even able to obtained a fair settlement amount for me and I would diffidently recommend him to friends, family or just anyone looking for assistance with a workers' compensation claim. Thank you both again!!read more
Cheryl Mancini
Cheryl Mancini
19:13 28 Aug 17
Mr. Bunn went above and beyond helping us with sensitive advice. He was on vacation, and still took the time to go over our concerns. He is very well informed,and cared enough to take the time to explain every detail. I would highly recommend this wonderful attorney.read more
Kurt Kettering
Kurt Kettering
15:06 25 Jul 17
I really appreciate the personal touch Mr. Bunn gave to all aspects of the case. I am very satisfied with the way the case was handled and the outcome received. I would highly recommend Kevin Bunn to anyone in need of help with their workers compensation claim.read more
Jake St. Peter
Jake St. Peter
18:07 19 Jul 17
I've used Kevin in the past and was extremely pleased with the results. Highly recommended and trustworthy attorney.
André L. Farmer
André L. Farmer
17:10 27 Jun 17
I would highly recommend Kevin Bunn. He was very professional and responded promptly to all questions. I am very satisfied with his services and his staff.read more
Daniel Chido
Daniel Chido
07:23 21 Mar 17
Kevin Bunn is a great lawyer and a great man. I consider myself very lucky and blessed to have had him representing and working for me over the past few years. I found him by word of mouth while I was looking for a lawyer to handle my worker's compensation claim and my application for social security disability. He was one of the only lawyers I found in the area who would handle both of these. I knew from the first time I met him in person that he was the right choice. Kevin is a straightforward, honest, rational, down to earth and very kind person who went above and beyond to help me and to bring forth favorable results on all fronts for my situation. He always explained things well, we were always on the same page before making any moves, and I truly felt like he put me as a person first and foremost, before lawyer fees or anything else like that. I honestly only have positive things to say about Kevin and my experience working with him. Also, his paralegal JoAnne is awesome, and it always cheered me up to hear her voice on the phone. I highly recommend Kevin Bunn to anyone who is searching for top notch representation for their worker's compensation claim or social security disability application. Thank you, Kevin and JoAnne!read more
Terri Perry
Terri Perry
21:20 25 Jan 17
Mr. Bunn was straightforward and a highly respected good attorney. I recommend anybody looking for a workers' comp lawyer in NC contact Mr. Bunn. He can represent me any time.read more
Paul Kemper
Paul Kemper
00:37 31 Oct 16
I have used Kevin, twice for work related cases. Kevin, was open and honest with me and my wife. I highly recommend Kevin Bunn, for any injury claim case. If I ever need anything attorney for an injury I will use him again. His secretary Joanne Latta, was always helpful and friendly to us. Thank you Kevin Bunn for your expertise and help. Paul Kemperread more
shane cargain
shane cargain
19:00 17 Jun 16
One of the best experiences I've had with a lawyer! He gets the money that you deserve and doesn't quit until you are satisfied with the outcome! He knows his stuff when it comes to the law and I HIGHLY recommend him to anyone for workers compensation cases or anything else that involves the law! You can't go wrong with him by your side when you need a good lawyer to battle for you!read more
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Top Ten Tips and Traps for North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Claims

After twenty years of practicing workers’ compensation law in North Carolina I have seen just about every mistake an injured worker can make.  These mistakes range from failing to file their claim, to settling when they should not have, and everything in between. Download my Top Ten Tips and Traps for North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Claims

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