In these uncertain times, the risk of occupational illness is exceptionally high. Whatever industry you work in, it is important to understand that Idaho workers’ compensation provides benefits to workers who suffer occupational diseases.
Take these important steps
1. Once you learn that you have a work-related illness, report it to your employer immediately. When you report your illness to your employer, ask if you must go to an employer-designated physician to receive non-emergency care. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to see a physician of your choice, rather than the employer-designated physician. However, before seeing a different doctor, talk to a workers’ compensation lawyer about your options.
2. When you seek medical care, be sure to tell the medical provider that your illness is work-related.
3. Assist your employer with completing the first report of injury or illness form. This must be filed with your employer’s insurer carrier.
4. If your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance, notify the Industrial Commission’s Employer Compliance department. You should request that your employer file a first report of injury or illness form. If your employer does not complete this form, talk to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney about your options.
You may be entitled to compensation for reasonable and necessary medical care, lost wages and other related benefits. Medical benefits may include x-rays, medications, hospitalization, crutches, travel expenses for medical appointments, and more.
You may be entitled to temporary total disability benefits until you are released for work or your condition reaches maximum medical improvement. Normally, benefits for lost wages are provided if your disease causes over five days of missed work or you are hospitalized as an inpatient.
Temporary partial disability benefits may be granted if you can return to part-time or modified work while you are recovering from your illness and you receive less than your regular earnings.
If your disease is permanent but you may return to the same or other type of work, you may receive benefits for your permanent partial impairment or disability. The extent of your permanent impairment or disability will determine the benefits.
Income benefits may be granted for an extended period for total and permanent disability from a job-related disease. The Industrial Special Indemnity fund may pay some benefits for a disability that was partially caused by an earlier condition or injury.
The spouse of a worker who died from an occupational disease may receive death benefits for 500 weeks. Benefits change if the spouse remarries. Up to three dependent children may receive benefits until they are 18. These benefits depend on the average weekly wage.
Parents, siblings, grandparents and grandchildren may be eligible for death benefits in some circumstances. Up to $6,000 may be paid for funeral expenses if the death occurred within four years of the disease.
The Commission’s Rehabilitation division provides rehabilitation services and neutral and objective consultants to assist a worker with returning to work that is as close as possible to the work and wage before the illness.
Disputing a denial of benefits
If you believe you are entitled to more benefits, talk to a workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible. It’s important to understand that seeking benefits for a work-related illness may be complicated and you may unintentionally give up rights if you do not have legal representation. Issues regarding occupational illnesses are also evolving. An attorney can help assure that your rights and interests are protected.