An occupational disease is a condition that derives out of the very nature of one's work, or a condition caused by the specific type of job a person performs over a period of time. The most common occupational disease is carpal tunnel syndrome, which frequently occurs in a person who works as a data entry clerk or typist. After performing these repetitive hand motions (over a period of weeks, months, or years), one can develop a problem with their hands or wrists. The problem would be related to performing the same movement over and over, as opposed to one specific accident.
An occupational disease may also result from being exposed to a substance typical to your job over a long period of time. An example of this type of occupational disease could be chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is a lung condition that may occur from being exposed to respiratory irritants over a long period of time. COPD would be considered an occupational disease for someone like an auto body repair person exposed to car exhaust or paint fumes on a daily basis. Based upon recent litigation and television commercials, you may be familiar with the occupational diseases or long term illnesses known as mesothelioma or asbestosis.
There is a difference between accidental exposure and occupational exposure, and it is important for your attorney to know which type of claim to file in each situation. For example, if you work in an office as a secretary and there happens to be a mold issue in that office, your exposure to the mold and any effect it has on your health would be considered accidental exposure since being exposed to mold is not an everyday occurrence for all secretaries. However, if you work for a mold remediation company (you remove mold from offices, houses, etc.), then your exposure to mold is a hazard of your occupation. If you became ill due to mold exposure, that would be considered occupational exposure and an occupational disease claim should be filed.
Repetitive stress or strain injuries are quite often conditions that are not the result of one specific incident or accident. For example, if you are employed as a nurse or home health aide and are required to lift, transfer, push or pull patients on a daily basis, this continuous stressful activity performed over a period of time can frequently result in neck, back, shoulder or knee issues. These conditions, because they did not occur from one specific incident but rather the cumulative effect of repetitive activities over a period of time, would be a sufficient basis for filing a repetitive stress claim. Some common causes of repetitive stress or strain are: