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New Jersey Workers’ Compensation: Toxic Exposure

Toxic Exposure in New JerseyMore than one-fifth of U.S. workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals in the workplace, according to the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA). In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has identified exposure to dangerous substances or environments as one of the top five causes of workplace deaths. In 2015, 424 workers succumbed to these exposures.

Injuries caused by workplace exposure to toxic substances are often covered under workers’ compensation insurance. However, some situations may also qualify for a third-party personal injury claim.

Topics Covered Here:

  1. What is Chemical Exposure?
  2. What Are Some Common Toxic Exposure Injuries?
  3. What Occupations Are At Risk of Toxic Exposure?
  4. Is There a Time Limit to File a Toxic Exposure Claim?
  5. What Damages Can I Recover in a Toxic Exposure Case?
  6. Do I Need a Lawyer for a Toxic Exposure Claim?

What is Toxic or Chemical Exposure?

Chemical exposure accounts for approximately 10 percent of workplace fatalities. Workers are typically exposed to toxic and dangerous substances either by skin contact and/or inhalation. Somewhat less common is exposure by ingestion. Some toxic exposure injuries are immediate and obvious, while others may be caused by long-term exposure to hazardous substances over long periods of time.

The following chemicals are just some of the dangerous substances that workers may encounter on the job:

  • Aluminum
  • Zinc
  • Ammonia
  • Benzene
  • Arsenic
  • Chloroform
  • Lead
  • Iodine
  • Uranium
  • Mercury
  • Formaldehyde
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Pesticides
  • Asbestos
  • Petroleum
  • Silica

What Are Some Common Toxic Exposure Injuries?

Toxic exposure can cause significant injury and even death. Chemicals, solvents, and other toxic substances can cause a variety of damages, depending upon the type of substance, the type of exposure and the duration of the exposure.

Skin disease from toxic exposure is a dangerous and prevalent problem, affecting 28,300 workers in 2015. Respiratory illnesses impacted more than 17,000 workers that same year. Neurological issues can occur after a single event, and may result in brain injury and central nervous system damage.

The following are just some of the conditions that can be caused by exposure to harmful substances:

  • Mesothelioma
  • Skin disease
  • Gastrointestinal illnesses
  • Respiratory illnesses
  • Neurological injuries
  • Central nervous system damage
  • Organ damage
  • Chemical Burns
  • Reproductive problems

What Occupations Are At Risk of Toxic Exposure?

Workers in all types of industries can be affected by exposure to toxic substances, though some occupations carry more risk than others. Some occupations with a risk of exposure include the following:

  • Manufacturing / Industrial Work – Work in factories, mills, and plants fabricating products can expose workers to numerous chemicals and hazardous substances.
  • Shipyards – Ship maintenance and shipyard work activities may involve the handling of solvents, heavy metals, and asbestos. Workers can be exposed to chemical water pollutants as well, such as copper, chromium, nickel and lead.
  • Dental Offices – Dental office staff may be exposed to beryllium, heavy metals, anesthetic gases, latex dust, and other toxins known to exist in this work environment.
  • Construction – This wide-ranging industry can put workers in contact with toxic substances on a regular basis, from solvents and lead coatings to insulation materials and diesel fuel.
  • Healthcare Facilities – Hospitals and other healthcare facilities use numerous chemicals and potentially harmful products for everything from cleaning and sanitation to patient care.
  • Automobile Repair Shops – Mechanics, auto body workers, painters and other auto shop staff may encounter chemicals, such as paint, gasoline, fuel, antifreeze, asbestos and more during their work.
  • Pest Control – Exposure to pesticides and herbicides is a typical hazard for fumigators and pest control technicians.
  • Firefighters – Smoke inhalation, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and hydrogen cyanide are potential hazards for these workers.
  • Housekeepers / Laundry / Cleaning Staff – These workers can be exposed to hazardous chemicals in solvents and cleaning supplies.

If you experience a workplace toxic exposure injury or become sick after long term exposure to a harmful substance, report the situation to a supervisor immediately. Detail the exposure and seek medical attention as soon as possible. Injuries caused by toxic exposure in the workplace may be compensable under New Jersey workers’ compensation law. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help you determine whether you have a viable claim.

Is There a Time Limit to File a Toxic Exposure Claim?

Typically, yes. You would usually want to bring a claim forward as quickly as possible. However, with toxic tort cases, symptoms may not even develop until a significant amount of time has passed. Because of this, the statute of limitations may be different than in other injury cases. Speak with an experienced lawyer as early as possible about your case.

What Damages Can I Recover in a Toxic Exposure Case?

As with most personal injury cases, plaintiffs can seek compensation for their injures which include:

  • Medical Expenses – Plaintiffs can seek damages for any past or future medical bills. This can include ambulance costs, doctor visits, hospitalization, and more. It can also include the cost of future treatments should the resulting injuries have lasting effects or permanence.
  • Past and Future Lost Wages – Injuries caused by toxic exposure can be debilitating causing lost wages both since the accident occurred and into the future where returning to work is not possible.
  • Pain and Suffering – Often victims of toxic exposure can pursue damages for pain and suffering where an accident caused life-altering injuries or loss of enjoyment of life.
  • Punitive Damages – In some scenarios where the defendant acted in a severely negligent manner punitive damages may be sought against the defendant.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Toxic Exposure Claim?

Toxic exposure claims can be both complex and time-consuming. Your defendants will undoubtedly have very strong representation and they look to reduce their liability and their financial exposure. In addition, many such cases require expert witnesses to back up the defendant’s claims.

While the majority of toxic exposure claims are settled out of court you need to be prepared to take your case to trial. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help guide you through the entire process from filing the right paperwork on time, properly investigating and gathering evidence to be used on your behalf, and negotiating with third parties to help deliver the best possible outcome.

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