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Can Workers’ Comp Cover Injuries Developed Over Many Years?


Not all work-related injuries are caused by sudden accidents. Occupational diseases and cumulative trauma injuries can develop over time.

Repetitive Stress Injuries

If an employee is covered by workers’ compensation insurance, he or she should be entitled to receive compensation for repetitive stress injuries caused by overuse across a long period of time. Back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome are examples of this type of injury. Workers with documented, sustained repetitive motion injuries are entitled to the same workers’ comp benefits as other injured workers.

Occupational Illnesses

Workers can also receive compensation for diseases and illnesses that develop gradually because of working conditions. Examples include lung disease, heart conditions, and other illnesses caused by long-term exposure to chemicals or other toxic substances. Another example of this type of occupational illness is stress-related digestive problems.

How Can a Workers’ Compensation Claim Be Proven for a Long-Term Illness or Injury?

To be covered for a long-term occupational illness or injury, an employee must prove that the condition resulted directly from performance of work-related duties. This may be more difficult to accomplish when an injury or illness develops over a long period of time.

Some illnesses caused by toxic exposure may not become symptomatic until months or years after initial exposure have passed. When exposure results in multiple health issues, such as asthma and cancer, it may be difficult to trace the cause of the illness back to exposure to toxic substances at work.

It may take years for repetitive stress injuries to become apparent. If an employee developed back problems after years of repetitive lifting at work, it may be difficult to prove that the injury was caused by duties at work as opposed to outside activities.

Evidence to Support a Workers’ Comp Claim for a Long-Term Illness or Injury

A worker can take any of several different approaches to prove that a long-term injury or illness is related to work:

  • Find out if other employees who worked under the same conditions in the same location developed a similar illness or injury. It can be a strong indicator that it is a work-related health condition if a number of people in the same industry and location develop the same or similar problems.
  • Monitor recalls and changes in the law. If a substance an employee worked with for years on the job has recently become illegal because it is known to cause health problems, this is evidence that work-related exposure caused the injuries.
  • Use a medical expert. A qualified physician may be able to help an employee document a long-term injury or illness. For a worker who has developed a repetitive stress injury, for example, a doctor may be able to make a determination as to whether the injury was caused by repetitive motions required in the performance of job duties. Any medical evidence an employee can provide to support a claim will go a long way toward proving it.

Most employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Our knowledgeable agents can review your business insurance package to help ensure that you have the coverage you need at the best available rate.

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