Respiratory Illnesses and Retail Work: Can I Seek Workers’ Compensation?
Respiratory illnesses are on the rise across American workplaces, and in retail workplaces in particular. Indeed, according to a recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “respiratory illnesses in the retail trade sector rose 96.0 percent from 2020 (21,500 cases) to 2021 (42,100),” which “drove a 75.6 percent increase in all illnesses” across retail workplaces in the country. While the overall rate of respiratory illnesses rose in various and wide-ranging industries, the BLS study suggests that retail work was particularly impacted. To be sure, in 2021, “the respiratory illness rate for the retail trade sector was 37.5 cases per 10,000 full-time workers.”
Can you seek workers’ compensation coverage for a respiratory illness in South Florida? It depends upon the circumstances of your case. Our workers’ compensation lawyers in Fort Lauderdale can provide you with more general information, and we can speak with you about your specific case to help you understand whether your respiratory illness may be compensable through the Florida workers’ compensation system.
Respiratory Illnesses Are “Occupational Diseases”
In order to be eligible for workers’ compensation coverage for any illness, it will need to fall under the classification of an occupational disease. Under the Florida statutes, in order for a workplace injury to be compensable, it must be understood as an accident (a classification that excludes, for example, injuries caused by the employee’s own intoxication). Then, the statute says this, which is important for understanding when respiratory illnesses may be compensable:
“Any injury or disease caused by exposure to a toxic substance, including, but not limited to, fungus or mold, is not an injury by accident arising out of the employment unless there is clear and convincing evidence establishing that exposure to the specific substance involved, at the levels to which the employee was exposed, can cause the injury or disease sustained by the employee.”
Proving Additional Illness Factors for Respiratory Disease
Ultimately, in order to be eligible for workers’ compensation coverage for a respiratory illness (including for illness caused by COVID-19), you will also need to show these elements:
- Your respiratory disease arose out of the nature of your employee;
- You contracted the respiratory illness while you were engaged in tasks of employment; and
- The nature of your employment was the major contributing cause in your developing the respiratory illness or disease.
Contact a Fort Lauderdale Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today
Getting hurt on the job, or developing a serious and long-term illness, can be devastating. Not only can a workplace injury or illness cause immense physical pain and suffering, but it can also be debilitating in such a way that prevents you from returning to work and earning a living. The workers’ compensation system in Florida is designed to provide injured workers with benefits to help them in these circumstances, including medical coverage to pay for treatment and recovery, and wage-replacement benefits at a portion of your wages (usually 66 and 2/3 percent) from prior to your injury. An experienced Fort Lauderdale workers’ compensation lawyer at the Law Offices of David M. Benenfeld, P.A. to discuss your case and to learn more about how we can help you to seek the benefits you need.