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Is compensation for an illness possible after employment ends?

The answer to the question above might not seem very promising when faced with the results in a 1998 article published by the Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine. According to a study outlined in the article, roughly 97 percent of workers living with an occupational illness don't receive compensation for their work-related condition.

Ask those who have filed a workers' compensation claim for an occupational illness in recent years and they will tell you things haven't changed much.

Why is it so difficult to recover compensation for an occupational illness?

The major reason why it's so difficult to recover compensation for work-related illnesses is an obvious one: Illnesses can years or even decades to develop. By the time a work-related illness is diagnosed, employment may have already been terminated, thereby making the link between job and disease less obvious.

Even if a worker can prove their occupational illness was caused by the type of work they did at a previous job, a workers' compensation insurer may be hesitant --even resistant -- to pay on a claim. They may try to invalidate the claim by pointing to environmental or genetic factors that could also explain the worker's condition.

Dealing with this kind of pushback -- in addition to the numerous legal barriers --can be stressful or even downright frustrating. As a result, some workers find it easier to recover compensation from private insurance or other sources, instead of from workers' compensation.

The end of employment doesn't mean the end of benefits

Just because you're no longer employed by a company doesn't mean you aren't eligible for workers' compensation benefits. Under § 34-9-281 of the Georgia Code, a worker with an occupational illness is eligible for workers' compensation benefits if:

  1. The illness arose out of or during the course of employment
  2. An injury claim is filed within one year of learning about their disease or should have known about their condition

Navigating the complexities of a workers' compensation claim is frustrating enough, but adding significant time to the equation can make it all that much more difficult to handle on your own. Because of how challenging occupational illness cases can be, it's best to consider retaining the services of an attorney who can review your case, explain your rights and advocate on your behalf if you decide to recover what is owed to you. 

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