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What is an Occupational Disease

In Wisconsin an occupational disease in workers compensation claims is a disease or condition that is caused by the job duties or working conditions. This means that the condition must have developed due to work in the workplace and that the correlation between the work and the condition or disease is well known in medical research.  An occupational disease is typically identified when it is shown that it is more prevalent in a given body of workers than in the general population, or in other worker populations.  There is epidemiological evidence supporting neck and low back conditions developing over time from job duties at work.

Generally speaking, an occupational disease is mental or physical harm that results from occupational exposure but is not so sudden or traumatic as to fit within the definition of an accident. A work exposure as short as one day has been held legally sufficient. Gumieny v. County Concrete Corp., WC Claim No. 2004-017501 (LIRC July 11, 2006) , aff'd sub nom. County Concrete Corp. v. LIRC, No. 2007AP864 , 2008 WL 4572284 (Wis. Ct. App. Oct. 15, 2008) (unpublished opinion not citable per section 809.23(3)). Unlike some jurisdictions, Wisconsin has not statutorily listed or excluded any occupational disease from its worker's compensation benefit provisions.

Regarding back conditions, degenerative or otherwise, the notion of occupational disease was extended to include a series of work-related accidental back injuries that had occurred over many years. Shelby Mutual Insurance Co. v. DILHR, 109 Wis. 2d 655 (Ct. App. 1982). The employee's disability was not been medically apportioned among the injuries, and the insurer that was on the risk on the injured employee's last day of work was found responsible for the entire disability.

A workers comp occupational disease claim can be made even in the absence of any identifiable traumatic injury-causing events. Wisconsin Ins. Sec. Fund v. LIRC, 2005 WI App 242.

In a compensable claim for occupational disease, the employee's work exposure must be a substantial cause or material causative factor of the employee's disability. White v. LIRC, 2000 WI App 244, 239 Wis. 2d 505. The Wisconsin workers' comp form WKC-16-B asks the doctor: "Was that exposure ... either the sole cause of the condition, or at least a material contributory causative factor in the condition's onset or progression?"

McCormick Law Office attorneys in Milwaukee, Wisconsin carefully assemble medical records that support the doctor or surgeon's opinions on a 16B form. This may include MRI reports, initial doctor appointments, hospital ER reports and detailed job duties or job descriptions.  An honest and trustworthy job description is very important and helpful in proving an occupational back workers comp claim.

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