If you've recently been diagnosed with a serious or chronic illness resulting from exposure to toxins in the workplace, you may be scared and wondering about your next steps. You might also be concerned about how you'll be able to pay for necessary treatment, or whether your illness will prevent you from being able to work and support your family. Fortunately, an entire segment of personal injury law is devoted to fighting for workers who have suffered "invisible" injuries in the workplace. Read on to learn more about occupational diseases and the legal and financial remedies you may have against your employer.
What are your legal options if you've been diagnosed with an occupational disease?
Your best option for recovering funds to help compensate you for your treatment costs, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other expenses is to file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer. You should contact personal injury lawyers who specializes in toxic torts or occupational illnesses and can help you evaluate the value and odds of success of your claim.
In order to prevail in court, you'll need to establish that your employer purposely, carelessly, or negligently exposed you (or allowed you to be exposed) to toxic or hazardous materials. You may also argue that your employer failed to provide you with proper protective equipment knowing that this increased your risk of illness. Finally, you'll need to show that this exposure directly led to your development of the occupational illness.
Your employer may challenge your allegation that your illness resulted from your work environment by offering evidence of your personal habits. For example, if you've been diagnosed with mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure, but have also been a smoker for several decades, your employer may argue that your lung disease was caused by smoking, rather than asbestos. In this situation you would need to engage an expert witness, such as a physician or pulmonary surgeon, to demonstrate that the onset of symptoms and specific physical factors you're experiencing could only have been caused by asbestos.
If the evidence you present in court is sufficient to convince a judge that your employer was at fault for the circumstances leading up to your diagnosis, he or she will pronounce judgment in your favor and assign a monetary value to the judgment. Your employer will then be required to pay you the full amount of the judgment, either in a lump sum or in the form of an annuity.
What if you don't want to take your case to court?
In some cases, you and your employer may choose to settle the lawsuit outside of court -- either through mediation or another form of dispute resolution.. This can provide advantages to both sides -- for you, it will help you avoid the cost and hassle of a trial, while for your employer, it may help them avoid being assessed punitive damages for engaging in negligent behavior.
What type of settlement or judgment can you receive?
In employment personal injury cases like these, your case will likely settle for at least the amount of your past and future medical bills and any lost wages from your time off work (or early retirement). Currently, Canadian tax law states that any settlement or judgment received to compensate you for medical damages (including pain and suffering) is tax-free. However, if you invest these funds, your ordinary income or investment tax rate will apply for any gains received. You may want to opt for an annuity or other type of structured settlement that will minimize any future taxes you pay on these funds.