Occupational Diseases

Virginia Workers Compensation is often associated with specific injuries, like a back or neck injury.  However, Virginia Workers Compensation law specifically sets out circumstances under which workers, because of their occupational exposure may be entitled to wage loss, medical or other types of benefits. These are known as occupational disease.  Virginia Code §65.2-400 defines what the law considers to be an  “Occupational Disease”: 

"a disease arising out of and in the course of employment, but not an ordinary disease of life to which the general public is exposed outside of the employment.” 

Examples of covered Occupational Diseases: 

  • Cancer
  • Mesothelioma 
  • Black Lung Disease (Coal Miner's Pneumoconosis) 
  • COPD

Typical Time Limitations for Occupational Diseases claims (VA Code §65.2-406 (A)(6)

  • Must be filed within two years after the diagnosis that the disease is first communicated to the employee OR
  • Within 5 years from the date the last time the worker was occupationally and injuriously exposed. 
  • Some diseases have specific time limitations built into the law. It is important for the worker to know precisely what time limitation governs the disease. 

Ordinary Diseases of Life 

In addition to occupational diseases, some "Ordinary Diseases of Life" are covered by the Virginia Workers Compensation Laws.  These are complex and are very often difficult to prove. Virginia Code §65.2-401 sets out the definition: 

“An ordinary disease of life to which the general public is exposed outside of the employment may be treated as an occupational disease if established by clear and convincing evidence.” 

Normal injury cases only involve proving with a "more likely than not" standard which is often considered to be 51% or better.  The clear and convincing evidence standard for Ordinary Diseases of Life to be covered is much more stringent. As a rule of thumb, the injured worker must not only prove that the occupation caused the disease, but that other factors outside the employment did not cause or contribute to the disease. 

Disease claims under the Virginia Workers Compensation Act are complex. Whether you have an occupational disease, Black Lung disease or believe that you have an ordinary disease that was solely caused by your work, you may wish to seek legal counsel to assist you with your claim. If you do, our firm is here to help.