Similar to the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Act, the Indiana Occupational Diseases Act provides benefits to workers who suffer disablement by occupational disease arising out of and in the course of employment. The Worker’s Compensation Board of Indiana presides over these cases as well.
Burden of Proof on the Injured Worker
Like worker’s compensation claims, the burden of proof is on the injured worker to prove that exposure to harmful substances at work led to the occupational disease that caused disablement.
In other words, a clear connection needs to be made to show that the disease arose directly out of and in the course of the injured worker’s employment rather than through some other means. This connection is sometimes more difficult to establish in occupational disease cases because of the possibility that the employee was exposed to similar disease-causing agents outside of his or her work environment.
Tom began having some breathing problems and went to see his family doctor. The doctor discovered that Tom had cancerous lumps on his lungs. Tom has worked around a lot of different chemicals during his 30 years in the factory, some of which are known to be cancer-causing agents. However, he has also bowled in a league every week for the last 20 years, and when at the bowling alley, he is around a lot of secondhand smoke.
Although many other details are needed in order to determine the direct cause of Tom’s cancer, this example shows how questions can easily arise concerning the direct cause of an illness due to exposure.
Proving Causation in Your Claim
The following points must be proven in any claim dealing with the causation of an occupational disease:
- Exposure occured
- The injured worker does indeed suffer from the alleged disease
- An appropriate time period has passed between the exposure and the beginning of the disease
- Scientific evidence exists to connect the chemical exposed to and the alleged disease
- The amount of exposure was sufficient to cause the disease
- The exposure occurred in a way that was capable of producing the disease
- The injured worker was not equally exposed to other causes of the disease outside of the work environment
Doctors specialized in the areas will likely be called upon to answer these questions.