Can I Get Workers’ Compensation for Chemical Exposure in Orlando?
Written by Shawn Diederich on May 6, 2016
Many Florida workers’ compensation cases involve a straightforward physical injury. For example, an employee slips and falls on a wet factory floor and breaks his leg. In such cases, establishing an employee’s workers’ compensation claim can be a simple matter.
But then there are more complicated cases such as those involving workers injured due to exposure to toxic and dangerous chemicals. Chemical exposure may not produce evidence of an immediate injury. Rather, long-term exposure to certain chemicals may cause the employee to develop cancer or another chronic ailment that may leave the employee totally disabled.
Chemical exposure can take many forms. Factory workers are frequently exposed to toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, and mercury. An accident, such as a chemical spill, can permanently damage an exposed employee’s lungs and skin. Even non-industrial “white collar” workers may be exposed to mold or pesticides that lead to life-threatening ailments.
Florida Requires Additional Proof for Toxic Exposure Claims
Unfortunately for employees, Florida workers’ compensation law sets a higher bar for claims based on chemical exposure relative to other injuries. In 2003, the Florida legislature amended the workers’ compensation law to require “clear and convincing evidence” before awarding benefits to an employee based on an “injury or disease caused by exposure to a toxic substance, including, but not limited to, fungus or mold.” This means the Florida workers’ compensation system will not presume an injury due to chemical exposure occurred in the course of a person’s employment. The burden of proof is on the employee to prove the employer’s liability.
The employee must prove three things. First, the claimant must establish that she was exposed to a particular toxic chemical or chemicals; second, the claimant must prove “the levels” of her exposure; and finally, she must prove the exposure caused her injury or ailment.
A layperson cannot establish any of these things. Therefore, in order to meet the burden of proof, the employee will need to engage expert testimony. At least two experts are generally necessary in these cases: one to establish the presence and levels of the toxic chemicals, and the second to prove the exposure caused the claimant’s injuries.
Get Help From a Florida Workers’ Compensation Attorney
The need for expert testimony means workers’ compensation is often a long and costly process for workers injured due to toxic chemical exposure. That is why if you have suffered a serious on-the-job injury it is essential you work with an experienced Orlando workers’ compensation attorney who understands the system and can fight for your rights. Contact the Diederich Law Firm, P.A., today if you need to speak with a workers’ compensation lawyer right away.