Toxic Tort or Workers’ Compensation?

Exposure to toxic substances at the workplace causes thousands of U.S. workers serious injury and illness every year. Common types of exposure include contamination of the air, water, and ground; chemical exposure due to an accident or regular handling of certain substances; and improper use of safety equipment or improper training. When an employee becomes sick because of toxic exposure to any chemical, they may have the ability to do one of the following: file for workers’ compensation benefits or file a personal injury lawsuit (toxic tort). Workplace exposure to toxic substances is one of the few circumstances in which an employee may file a personal injury lawsuit against their employer.

The Difference Between Workers’ Compensation and a Personal Injury Lawsuit

When you get injured on the job or suffer a workplace illness, your medical bills and lost wages will most likely be covered by workers’ compensation benefits. There are positives and negatives regarding Maryland’s workers’ compensation system. A positive, for example, is the relative speed and efficiency of receiving workers’ compensation benefits, compared to a personal injury lawsuit. In fact, when your employer is covered by workers’ compensation insurance, you do not have the ability to file a personal injury lawsuit against them to recover damages. One of the negatives of workers’ compensation, compared with a personal injury lawsuit, is that workers’ compensation benefits do not provide compensation for pain and suffering.

Common Workplace Illnesses: Skin Disease, Respiratory Condition, and Poisoning

The ramifications of a workplace illness caused by toxic exposure can be deadly. The three primary types of workplace illnesses, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, include:

  • Skin diseases or disorders such as eczema, contact dermatitis, or a rash due to irritant exposure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), potentially 13 million Americans are annually exposed to toxic chemicals that can cause harm through the skin. Those at the most risk include workers at the following types of employment: Food service, cosmetology, health care, agriculture, cleaning, painting, construction, printing and lithography, and mechanics.
  • Respiratory conditions are caused by the inhalation of toxic chemicals, dust, vapor, gases, and fumes. Common diseases or conditions include hypersensitivity pneumonitis, silicosis, tuberculosis, asbestosis, reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS), toxic inhalation injuries including metal fume fever or chronic obstructive bronchitis, pharyngitis, pneumonitis, rhinitis or acute congestion, occupational asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), farmer’s lung, and beryllium disease.
  • Poisoning occurs when an abnormal level of toxic chemical is absorbed into the body and enters the bloodstream, tissues, or other bodily fluids. Poisoning can occur through ingestion, inhalation, or absorption through the skin. Common toxic workplace poisoning is caused by mercury, arsenic, lead, hydrogen sulfide, benzol, carbon tetrachloride, organic solvents, insecticide spray, mercury, cadmium, and formaldehyde.

Contact a Maryland Attorney Today

If you suffered a toxic exposure at work, contact an attorney today to discuss your options. Call the Maryland attorneys of Frame & Frame today at 410-255-0373.