Most workers understand that a sudden accident on the job could make them eligible for compensation from their employer. What if a worker does not develop an injury until much later, however?
Not all work injuries appear while an employee is actively working. Some types of injuries and illnesses, such as occupational diseases, do not show symptoms until long after you have left the job. In this case, it is vital to understand whether you can still seek damages from a previous employer.
Time matters more than employment status
Leaving a job after an accident or injury generally will not disqualify an employee from workers’ compensation, although it can affect other employment benefits, such as health insurance. Still, the initial cause of your injury must have occurred while you were still employed.
Pennsylvania law dictates that employees typically have 120 days to notify their employer of an accident or injury. Notification kicks off the rest of the claims process.
However, this time limit does not apply in all situations. The clock starts ticking according to the facts of your case.
When do workers have additional time?
Special time limits can apply to workers who handle dangerous chemicals, radiation, asbestos and more. Exposure to these occupational hazards can lead to a disabling or terminal medical condition after an employee leaves the job. Furthermore, firefighters have unique compensation rules under the Heart and Lung Act.
In occupational disease cases, the employee would have additional time – up to 300 weeks, or about six years after the most recent exposure – for their claim. The employee must file their claim within three years after they discover their illness.
Filing a claim through a former employer is complicated
If you suffered an injury or developed an occupational illness, you might be able to seek compensation. Even if you no longer work for a company or public entity, your former employer could be liable to cover your damages.
However, filing a claim under these circumstances can be a complex process. Time and other eligibility requirements, such as how long you had exposure to occupational hazards, still matter. You may also need the help of an attorney to prove the link between your previous work environment and your condition today.