For over 20 years, the attorneys at Lipsitz & Ponterio have represented men and women suffering from diseases caused by exposure to toxic substances in the workplace. These dangerous substances include asbestos, benzene, coal tar pitch volatiles and beryllium. The sellers, manufacturers, distributors and marketers of these toxic products often knew these products were dangerous, yet they ignored, scaled down or denied the health risks.
In addition to asbestos, there are several harmful substances that cause disease in the workplace:
• Benzidine Based Dyes
• Beryllium Dust & Fumes
• Coal Tar Pitch Volatiles
• Coke Oven Emissions Exposure
• Diesel Fumes
• Vinyl Chloride
Lipsitz & Ponterio is the leading law firm in Western New York that represents workers and their families in third party lawsuits for occupational disease and death. We are also the region’s top law firm for pursuing occupational disease and death claims in workers’ compensation court. While success in a third party lawsuit depends, in part, on evidence of a defendant’s negligence in the manufacturing and marketing of its toxic substances, it is not necessary to show that an employer was at fault in order to prove a claim of occupational disease or death under New York’s Workers’ Compensation Law. This is because comp is a “no fault” system specifically designed to provide a remedy for injured workers. The claimant is not required to show that the employer was at fault in exposing the employee to one or more toxic substances, only that the exposure itself was central to the work performed by the employee and that it was a substantial contributing factor in causing illness or death. In death claims, the claimant does not have to prove that the workplace exposure was the one cause of death, only that it cut short the worker’s lifetime by a single day.
Lipsitz & Ponterio represents workers in cases where the onset of occupational disease makes it impossible for a worker to continue in his or her regular occupation. Many occupational diseases, however, such as asbestosis, do not appear until after retirement. Because wage replacement benefits are not available to workers who become disabled after retirement, these types of claims are relatively rare. But the law does recognize the impact of occupational disease on families and provides weekly benefits for surviving spouses, even when the death occurs well after retirement.
Under the statute of limitations for a comp claim for occupational disease, the disabled worker must bring a claim within two years of the date that he or she learned of the disabling condition and its relationship to his or her employment. Under the statute of limitations for a comp claim for an occupationally-related death, the surviving spouse must file his or her claim within two years of the date that he/she knew, or should have known, that the spouse’s death was caused by occupational exposure to hazardous substances.
Exposure to toxic substances in the workplace may occur through inhalation, skin absorption or ingestion. The three initial steps to investigate a Workers’ Compensation claim are:
• request the claimant’s employment records;
• obtain historical exposure data related to the job site; and
• review Material Safety Data Sheets (these sheets provide the composition and health hazards of any toxic substance used at the workplace.)
An investigation also includes a request for medical records. An expert will review the records and provide an opinion. The expert’s opinion, in addition to all the other information obtained, will help support the claimant’s burden of proof, which must be met in order to succeed. In order to meet this burden, the claimant must establish a recognizable link between his or her condition and a distinctive feature of his or her employment, such as exposure to one or more hazardous substances.
In some cases, it may be necessary to identify a co-worker who can corroborate the claimant’s occupational exposure to a hazardous substance. In rare cases, where a co-worker cannot be located, the spouse may provide testimony related to the claimant’s job duties, exposures and subsequent side effects. Lipsitz & Ponterio recently represented a client who worked in the textile industry and was often exposed to benzidine dyes in the work place. The spouse testified that the claimant’s perspiration was often blue and would stain their bedsheets.
Lipsitz & Ponterio has handled numerous workers’ compensation claims. Each case is given prompt and thorough attention. Call Lipsitz & Ponterio to discuss any potential workers’ compensation claim.