Workers could suffer injuries from a toxic chemical at any job. However, in some industries, the risk is greater. Employees could be regularly exposed for a long time and not know it until they get sick. While employers are responsible for ensuring the work environment is safe, some things are out of their control. Workers who get injured or become ill may find they are eligible to file for compensation through a workers’ comp claim, third-party lawsuit, or both.
At Jay Trucks, our Grand Rapids-based workers’ comp attorneys have been helping injured workers for decades. We understand how devastating a toxic exposure injury or occupational illness can be, and we are prepared to help.
You can learn if you have legal options to seek benefits and other compensation in the free case review we offer. There is no pressure to hire our services after this meeting. If we do represent you, there is nothing to pay up front or throughout the legal process.
FREE Case Review. Call 989-244-0356 today.
How Does Toxic Exposure Happen in the Workplace?
Toxic chemical exposure injuries could happen suddenly and from a single event, such as an explosion or accidental spill. In certain industries, the type of work may put employees at a greater risk for exposure. Some workers could be exposed for weeks, months or longer before any initial symptoms show something is wrong.
Workers can be exposed to harmful chemicals and toxins through inhalation, injection, ingestion, skin absorption or through the eyes.
What Toxic Exposure Injuries May Result?
Workers may be at risk for different types of toxic injuries, depending on the industry they work in. If exposed, workers could suffer a number of severe injuries or occupational illnesses as a result. Some of the most common industries and toxic exposure risks include:
- Aerospace industry – Workers in this industry are at risk of being exposed to beryllium. This chemical compound is a low-density metal that, if not handled properly, can put workers at risk of exposure.
- Construction work – The construction industry has multiple toxic materials workers could be exposed to, which is why employers must follow requirements to ensure worker safety.
- Farm or grain industry – Farm workers are at risk for inhaling mold spores and other bacteria found in crops. Some exposures may lead to asthma-like attacks, but for others, exposure could result in a slow onset of serious symptoms. Coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue or a burning sensation in the chest should prompt workers to seek immediate medical attention. Long-term exposure could lead to permanent lung damage or death.
- Food industry/flavorings – Workers in the food industry are at risk for thousands of disease-causing chemicals. However, diacetyl, the buttery flavoring used in microwave popcorn, is the most common and can cause bronchiolitis obliterans – or popcorn lung. This lung disease is irreversible.
- Miners – There are a lot of toxic substances that miners could be exposed to while doing their job. Depending on the type of substance they mine, these workers could inhale silica, asbestos or other dangerous particles.
- Cotton, flax or hemp harvesting – Long-term exposure to dust particles of unprocessed cotton, flax or hemp could lead to permanent lung damage or a lung disease called byssinosis, also called brown lung.
- Welding – Melting metal may expose welders to hazardous fumes and metallic substances. Manganese, one of the most common risks, could lead to tremors similar to those associated with Parkinson’s disease.
Workers in multiple other industries may be exposed to noise, textiles, insulation, paints, solvents and more. Resulting injuries could include brain damage, vision damage or blindness, chemical burns, leukemia and more. Women who are exposed to harmful chemicals while pregnant could also be at risk for delivering a child with birth defects.
How Do You Know if You Have a Toxic Chemical Injury?
After a single event, such as an explosion or accidental spill, injured workers should seek emergency medical care. However, if you work in a high-risk industry, toxic exposure injuries often happen over a longer period of time. Unfortunately, workers could be exposed for weeks, months or longer before they notice any symptoms. When discussing your injuries and symptoms with the doctor, it is important to mention the type of work you do and when your symptoms started.
These are some early warning signs to look for:
Onset of Chronic Fatigue and Unexplained Body Aches
These symptoms may be the result of long-term exposure to toxic or harmful chemicals at work. If these symptoms appear and you also work in a high-risk industry, you should see your doctor immediately. If left untreated, you could suffer from chronic fatigue or other chronic pain syndromes. Additionally, these early symptoms could be a warning of another, more serious occupational illness.
Irritated Eyes and Skin Inflammation
Another common side effect of being exposed to a chemical or harmful toxin is burning or irritation in your eyes. If you came into physical contact with a chemical, you could also experience burns or inflammation on your skin.
Workers who inhale toxic fumes may feel burning or inflammation in their esophagus or stomach. Sometimes, exposed workers describe the symptoms as being similar to acid reflux.
Many people suffer from migraines, but if you never had them before you started working in a high-risk industry, it could be a side effect of exposure to a toxic chemical. Migraines are a common side effect of exposure to chemicals in the air. Other symptoms that often accompany migraines include nausea and sensitivity to light or sounds.
If you were exposed to a harmful chemical in the air, you may experience several symptoms soon after. Common symptoms include a burning sensation in your chest, congestion, and pain in your nose, ears, throat, voice box, lungs or chest area.
When Do Toxic Exposure Claims Fall Under Workers’ Comp?
If you were exposed to toxins or other harmful chemicals on the job, then you likely qualify for workers’ compensation benefits in Michigan. Since workers’ comp claims are not fault-based claims, you do not have to establish negligence. That said, you do have to prove your toxic exposure injury happened on the job and arose out of performing your job duties.
If eligible, you could receive compensation for all reasonable and necessary medical costs, wage replacement benefits and more. However, you must not delay reporting your injury to your employer. As soon as you have a diagnosis, you should report the injury so you can begin seeking treatment right away. Additionally, if you put off reporting the injury, your employer or workers’ comp carrier could deny your claim.
Could My Toxic Exposure Claim Be a Third-Party Lawsuit?
Workers’ compensation prevents you from being able to sue your employer. However, there could be a third-party who is responsible for your injuries. For instance, if you were using an aerosol cleaner as intended and the can exploded in your hand, causing you to suffer chemical burns. In that situation, you could be eligible for a workers’ comp claim and a third-party lawsuit.
If you qualify for a third-party lawsuit, you could receive additional compensation for:
- Doctor appointments
- Surgery, if needed
- Mobility assistive devices, such as a wheelchair or crutches
- Diagnostic testing
- Physical therapy
- Prescription or over-the-counter medication to help with pain management
- Travel to and from medical appointments
How Should I Pursue a Toxic Exposure Claim?
If your injury happened at work in a single event, it is vital to your claim that you report the incident immediately. If you are transported to the hospital for emergency purposes, then you should report the injury as soon as your injury stabilizes. Be sure to get contact details of any co-workers or other credible witnesses who may have seen the incident.
For work injuries caused by long-term exposure to toxins or harmful chemicals on the job, there are some steps you need to take, including:
- Seeking a full examination from a physician who has experience diagnosing and treating toxic chemical injuries
- Report the injury to your employer as soon as you have been given a medical diagnosis
- Keep a consistent and accurate work injury journal to document the diagnosed injuries and how they progress
- Contact an attorney for legal help and to avoid making mistakes that could hurt your claim
A licensed attorney can help you to gather the evidence you need to support and build a compelling claim.
Contact Our Law Firm For Help With a Toxic Exposure Claim
If you have an injury or occupational illness and suspect it may be the result of toxic exposure in the workplace, we are ready to help.
At Jay Trucks, we can explain what legal options you may have for seeking compensation. Whether you have a workers’ comp claim, a third-party lawsuit or both, we have decades of experience and are prepared to protect your interests.
Schedule a free, no-risk consultation with one of our licensed attorneys today to discuss your situation. If you have a claim and we represent you, we will work tirelessly to help you get the benefits and/or compensation you need.
Millions Recovered for Our Clients. 989-244-0356