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"There were approximately 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers in 2015...the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Some of the injuries were the result of exposure to hazardous chemicals. Whether in the workplace or at home, exposure to chemicals can cause damaging health conditions that last a lifetime.

Chemical Injury Definition

A chemical injury occurs when a person is injured due to exposure or harm caused by chemicals. A chemical injury incurred by an employee while on the job would typically be handled as a workman compensation claim. Most employers are legally required to have workman's comp insurance. This insurance is designed to help cover an injured employee's medical costs and help pay for lost wages due to an on-the-job injury. However, a chemical injury may also be grounds for a civil suit. Unfortunately, employer's do not always take responsibility for unsafe workplace conditions or the injuries that occur as a result. Additionally, a valid workman's compensation claim may be denied.

Worker's Comp Lawsuits

OSHA, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is responsible for setting and upholding workplace safety standards. All public, and most private employees are offered certain rights and protections under Federal law. Federal law mandates that you are provided a safe workplace, trained in a language you understand, are provided appropriate safety gear and materials, and are protected from toxic chemicals. You also have the right to speak up if you believe you are working in an unsafe environment without retaliation from your employer.

There are several situations where a worker's compensation lawsuit would be valid and necessary. But sometimes, worker's compensation is not available, or is not enough. If you suffer a chemical injury on the job and your employer does not have worker's compensation insurance, you may need to bring a civil suit to recoup the cost of medical bills and lost wages. Additionally, workman's compensation insurance may not cover the entirety of your losses.

Worker's comp doesn't take into consideration pain and suffering or any emotional consequences of your injury. When a long-term injury or particularly painful incident occurs, there can be long lasting emotional scars that take time and professional assistance to deal with. A civil suit can help you get financial assistance to pay for your suffering and accompanying needs.

There are several other scenarios where workman's comp is not applicable and a civil suit is a more suitable course of action. If you use a product that is defective or inherently dangerous you may pursue legal action against the manufacturer. A manufacturer is obligated to properly package, label, and distribute its products. If a chemical injury occurs due to a product's defect or manufacturer's negligence a civil suit can help you obtain financial relief.

Similarly, if you are injured due to your employer's negligence and or unsafe work conditions, a civil suit may be more appropriate than a workman comp claim. Your employer is required to maintain a safe work environment and is held to federal and state standards and regulations.

Health Effects of Chemical Exposure

Some occupations are more predisposed to chemical exposure than others. Firefighters are now actively trained in decontamination techniques to try and combat long term chemical exposure and cancer. After decades of higher incidents of cancer than the average population, studies are now showing that firefighters are exposed to more carcinogens and as a result are a high risk population for developing certain types of cancer. People that work with strong chemicals regularly such as pool cleaners are susceptible to inhaling toxic substances with potentially debilitating results. Short term effects to inhaling chlorine fumes can include shortness of breath, dizziness and nausea, while long term effects may be as serious as fluid in the lungs. Carpenters and electricians may face regular contact with asbestos. Asbestos has now identified as a possible cause of mesothelioma, a type of cancer. Whether you are regularly in contact with chemical agents or have a one-time occurrence that causes an injury, the health consequences can be serious.

After experiencing a chemical injury, you have several options. If the injury is a result of negligence or toxic materials you should pursue avenues to secure your financial future. Your specific situation and the details of your injury and how it occurred will help determine which course of action is most appropriate. If you have suffered a chemical injury, seek qualified and experienced legal representation. Insurance companies are well versed in paying out as little as possible. You need a legal expert that understands your situation and will advocate for you. Please give our office a call and let us help you through this difficult time. We will use our knowledge and expertise to fight for you.

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West, Longenbaugh and Zickerman P.L.L.C.

310 S. Williams Blvd
Suite 250
Tucson, AZ 85711

Phone: 520-518-3781
Fax: 520-748-0852
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