Is Your Disease Considered Work-Related?

Is Your Disease Considered Work-Related

The concept of causality, or cause and effect, is simple to understand, but in the medical world, where the effect is often apparent well before the cause can be uncovered, things aren’t so simple. It can take time for scientific research to catch up and explain the causal link between disease and certain behaviours or environmental factors.

Sadly, despite suspicions, a lot of damage can be done before science provides solid proof of causal links and disease. It may even take some time before that evidence is accepted. One only needs to look at the widespread use of asbestos and the devastating diseases that resulted from such a toxic material. Many of those affected by asbestos were workers who were using the toxic material everyday.

Unfortunately, work-related diseases are still prevalent today. As research and science evolves we see more evidence proving causal links between certain work environments and disease. Under workers compensation schemes those who have developed a disease as a result of their occupation may be entitled to compensation.

What is a Work-Related Disease?

A work-related disease refers to any illness contracted during employment or caused by certain employment activities and environments. Work-related diseases and injuries are often grouped together, but when it comes to pursuing compensation the two are actually quite different.

According to Safe Work Australia, compared to work-related injuries, it is difficult to prove a disease was contracted in, or caused by, particular employment. To address this, most Australian states have included a list of deemed diseases in their workers compensation schemes. The list recognises specified occupational diseases as being caused by specified work related activities.

Deemed Diseases List

The deemed diseases list essentially reverses the onus of proof. Workers who develop a disease listed on the deemed diseases list, where their employment is in line with a specified occupation, do not need to prove the causal link between the disease and their work. Rather it is assumed the worker has developed that disease because of their exposure, unless there is strong evidence to the contrary. In this sense, the deemed diseases list simplifies claims.

While such a list can simplify compensation claims for work-related diseases, many of the deemed diseases lists used within workers compensation schemes are outdated. Deemed diseases lists were developed decades ago and have not been updated to reflect advances in medical research and studies. As a consequence, the lists fail to recognise some diseases for which there is now strong evidence of a causal link between the disease and work-related exposure.

In late 2015 Safe Work Australia published their Deemed Diseases in Australia report. The report set out to review the latest scientific evidence on the causal link between diseases and occupational exposures. The report provides evidence-based information and makes recommendations to jurisdictions looking to revise current deemed diseases lists.

At the time of writing, workers compensation legislation hasn’t incorporated the recommendations into their deemed diseases list, but submissions to review workers compensation legislation and the deemed diseases list have already been made in some states. If the recommendations are accepted it could make a big difference to workers pursuing compensation, making the claims process much easier and simpler.

Can You Make a Claim?

Given that most deemed diseases lists are outdated, it’s highly likely that your disease could be work-related and you are entitled to compensation, even if the disease is not listed on a deemed diseases list. In this case you can still make a compensation claim, it just means that the onus of proof will be on you to prove that the disease developed as a result of exposure during your employment.

While workers compensation legislation varies across states and territories, in general, a claim will need to establish the existence of a disease and prove that it was contracted during the course of employment, where employment was the main contributing factor. The biggest difficulty is proving that the disease is work-related and not something that would have happened anyway. It is therefore paramount that your legal team presents the latest in scientific evidence to prove the relationship between the disease and workplace exposures.

Even if you suspect your disease is related to your employment, it’s a good idea to seek medical and legal advice as soon as possible. Taylor & Scott Lawyers thoroughly investigate any claim for workers’ compensation. In previous cases they have employed experts from abroad to present evidence and ensure clients have the greatest likelihood of obtaining a fair result. Each compensation lawyer brings years of experience and understanding to your case. They will not only research and collect all the facts to present the strongest possible case, they will also calculate how much compensation you are entitled to and ensure that you receive it.

Taylor & Scott lawyers travel widely throughout NSW to meet with and assist clients. If you have a viable workers compensation claim, Taylor & Scott will make an application for a grant of legal assistance from WIRO, meaning that you will not pay any legal costs in pursuing a workers compensation claim.

If your disease is work-related then you shouldn’t have to suffer as a result. Arrange to meet with a Taylor & Scott workers compensation lawyer today.

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