There are plenty of jobs that provide a good living wage but might not always be safe. Some of these include construction, manufacturing, mining, agriculture—and any other job where you might not be able to avoid inhaling various airborne substances. Over time, these daily exposures can lead to physical damage, including respiratory illnesses. You may be entitled to compensation for any illness caused by your workplace. Even if your employer does not provide workers' compensation, you are still likely eligible for compensation.
Types of Workplace Respiratory Illnesses
Since there is such a wide variety of jobs that can cause respiratory illness, there's also quite a range of symptoms and diagnoses. All work-related lung diseases come from long-term exposure to certain irritants that are then breathed into the lungs. Unfortunately, many of these illnesses can have lasting effects, even after the worker is no longer exposed.
Airborne particles that can cause damage include smokestacks, exhaust, chemicals, toxic dust, and fires. Some potential illnesses include:
- Asbestosis. This is a result of inhaling asbestos fibers and can lead to lung scarring and stiff tissue. It is related to construction work.
- Pneumoconiosis or "black lung." This is an illness from inhaling coal dust. It causes lung inflammation and leads to permanent lung damage. Coal workers almost exclusively come down with this illness.
- Silicosis. This happens when you breathe in crystalline silica. This is found in the air of mines, foundries, and blasting sites. It is also found in the air of stone, clay, and glass facilities. It will cause lung scarring and increase your risk of coming down with other lung diseases.
- Byssinosis. This results from breathing in hemp, flax, or cotton dust. It is chronic and tends to affect textile workers.
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis. This allergic lung disease comes from inhaling various substances, including fungus spores, bacteria, chemicals, or animal and plant proteins. Farmers often contract this, and it can cause inflammation of the lung's air sacs and cause fibrous scar tissue.
- Work-related asthma. Possibly the most common work-related respiratory illness, this condition can be reversed if detected early enough. You are at risk if you work in manufacturing, farming, animal care, food procession, textiles, or refineries.
Symptoms of Respiratory Illness
Most work-related respiratory illnesses are caused by repetitive, long-term exposure. However, even a severe single exposure can result in lung injury. Poor health habits like smoking can exacerbate the condition. While symptoms vary by individual and the exact exposure, some common symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath, which increases in severity with physical activity
- Chest pain or tightness
- Abnormal breathing patterns
Since work-related lung conditions can present like other health conditions, many do not realize that being unwell is related to their job, thus continuing exposure. If you are feeling ill, it's a good idea to log when it feels better or worse and if you have a significant decline over time. However, that doesn't mean you need to wait until you feel extremely uncomfortable to seek medical attention. If you feel anything abnormal, it's still a good idea to get checked out by a doctor.
Lung diseases are diagnosed through various avenues, including X-rays, pulmonary function tests, bronchoscopy, blood gas testing, and CT scan.
While Texas workers can file a workers' compensation claim for respiratory illness, many of the state's employers are non-subscribers, which means they do not provide workers' comp. However, you are still able to file a personal injury claim. This type of claim can be even more effective, as you can often recover the full amount of your medical bills and other warranted compensation.
If you believe you have a work-related respiratory illness, be sure to seek medical help and keep a copy of every record. Documentation for every appointment, prescription, and hospital stay related to the illness should be kept. You should also report the illness to your employer. While no employer wants to pay damages, it is important they are aware of the situation so they can document it, be prepared, and hopefully prevent harmful exposures for other employees.
Lastly, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
How a Lawyer Can Help
Working with an attorney who has experience in non-subscriber claims can increase the amount of compensation you deserve. You will also receive much-needed assistance in building your case, so you have more time to focus on your recovery. A quality attorney will:
- Investigate the cause of your illness
- Ensure any and all damages are correctly documented
- Locate witnesses to testify in your favor
- Negotiate with insurance companies or your employer's attorney on your behalf
- File any necessary paperwork by the deadlines
- Prepare your case to be ready for trial if a fair settlement can't be reached
At SJ Injury Attorneys, we have the experience you need to receive the compensation you deserve. Don't delay in contacting us for a consultation if you feel you have a work-related respiratory illness or injury.