Occupational Diseases and Workers’ Compensation in Minnesota
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Occupational Diseases and Workers’ Compensation in Minnesota

In Minnesota, employees can receive workers’ compensation benefits if they have occupational diseases. These benefits can be very helpful for people who find out that they contracted a disease at work, especially because medical treatment for these types of diseases can cost a lot of money. The employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company will pay for treatment.

An occupational disease arises out of and in the course of employment, and it is a disease that is “peculiar to the occupation in which the employee is engaged and due to causes in excess of the hazards ordinary of employment”. (Minn. Statutes § 176.011, subd. 15.) In other words, occupational disease happens when a worker gets a disease due to his job, which has unusual risks not found in most other jobs.

Be careful not to confuse occupational diseases with diseases that anyone can get, regardless of their job. For example, you can get cancer due to many different causes totally unrelated to work, such as by smoking cigarettes. But workers who handle toxic chemicals or work with asbestos have been shown to have much higher rates of certain kinds of cancer not usually found in the general population.

To be compensable for Minnesota workers’ compensation purposes, there must be a direct connection between working conditions and the occupational disease. The working conditions must result in disease occurring as a natural incident of the exposure or the job duties. PTSD qualifies as an occupational disease in Minnesota as of 2013.

If an employer can show that there is no direct and proximate causal link between the disease and the employment, it may avoid paying workers’ compensation benefits. For example, the employer could show that the worker’s duties involve no unusual hazards that would result in the disease the worker has. Alternatively, the employer could show that the worker would have been equally exposed to the risk of getting the disease outside his current employment – had he worked another job or been unemployed, he still could have gotten sick. (Minn. Statutes § 176.011, subd. 15.)

When workers who provide emergency medical care, firefighters, and correctional officers develop infectious or communicable diseases to which they were exposed at work, Minnesota law provides a presumption that the diseases are occupational. When firefighters and some law enforcement officers contract particular diseases, Minnesota law also provides a presumption. These diseases include myocarditis, coronary sclerosis or pneumonia, and for firefighters, any disabling type of cancer that is known to stem from exposure to carcinogens, radiation or heat. (Minn. Statutes § 176.011, subd. 15(b), (c).)

Need help getting workers’ compensation for your occupational disease? Joe Osterbauer, Esq. and the Osterbauer Law Firm stand up for injured Minnesota workers’ rights. Joe’s 27 years of workers’ compensation experience and his team’s speedy service combine to get clients the results they need. To schedule a free consultation, visit Osterbauer Law Firm online or call Joe’s office at (612) 334-3434.