While many workplace injuries are the result of falling, equipment failure, or unsafe conditions, some job site injuries are caused by exposure to toxic chemicals. West Virginia construction sites, mines, mills, and manufacturing plants are some examples of work areas where hazardous chemicals are used. Unfortunately, exposure to these dangerous chemicals can often lead to injuries, diseases, and even death.
Employers are required to maintain safe work environments and provide protective equipment for their employees, but accidents still happen. In other cases, workers are exposed to dangerous chemicals due to their employer’s negligence or intentional disregard for safety regulations. Workers’ compensation claims may cover some injuries, but West Virginia’s laws can be complicated and victims don’t always get the benefits they deserve.
At Prim Law, we are dedicated to helping West Virginia workers and their families who have been harmed by exposure to toxic chemicals. If you have an injury or disease you believe is due to your job, we can help you understand your legal options.
Call our office in Hurricane, West Virginia, at 304-201-2425, or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
Common Hazardous Chemicals on Work Sites
West Virginia is home to many industries and job sites where toxic chemicals are used, stored, or manufactured. Here are some of the most common hazardous substances found at local sites:
- Harsh chemical solvents: used in textile production, computer parts manufacturing, dry cleaning, paving, and printing.
- Lead: commonly found in older buildings and facilities that make plastic products, ceramics, and batteries.
- Mercury: airborne contaminant associated with chemical spills and incinerator usage.
- Benzene: frequently seen in steel mills, petrochemicals facilities, pharmaceutical labs, and rubber production companies.
- Acids: commonly found on industrial sites.
- Asbestos: often present in older buildings and mines.
- Beryllium: a metal commonly present in electronics manufacturing and material extraction.
- Pesticides/weed killer: a frequent concern for landscapers and pool maintenance workers.
- Cadmium: often present during welding, textile printing, metal pouring, glassblowing, and ceramics manufacturing.
- Silica: a common substance on construction sites and quarries.
- Vinyl chloride: used to produce PVC pipes, packaging components, and coatings.
While these are some of the most common types of toxic chemicals that West Virginia workers may be exposed to, there could be others.
Injuries From Toxic Chemical Exposure
These dangerous chemicals can cause severe injuries or even death to individuals who are exposed to them. Exposure can occur through skin contact, breathing in fumes or airborne particles, or through an event like an explosion, spill, or fire.
Skin that is exposed to toxic substances may develop a chemical burn or rash. Acid can burn the skin, and a chemical fire or explosion could also cause severe burns.
Individuals who breathe in certain substances (e.g. asbestos, pesticides, mercury, benzene) may develop immediate and/or long-term problems. Some chemicals can cause internal burns in the respiratory system.
Many chemicals are poisonous and can cause severe problems if ingested. Lead poisoning can occur with exposure to even small amounts of lead, especially if the exposure occurs over a long period of time.
Brain and nerve damage
Many toxic chemicals can harm the brain and nervous system, leading to paralysis, convulsions, and tremors. Neurotoxic chemicals that can cause this type of damage include mercury, cadmium, lead, solvents, and pesticides.
Cancer and other diseases
Asbestos is known to cause mesothelioma, which is a certain type of lung cancer. Benzene (which many people are exposed to through cigarette smoke) can cause lung cancer, damage to blood cells, and leukemia. Silica dust can cause a lung disease called silicosis if it’s inhaled. Some toxins may increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
A chemical explosion, contact with acid, or consumption of a pesticide could be instantly deadly. However, many toxic chemicals can cause cancer, organ failure, or diseases that are eventually fatal. Depending on how the exposure occurred, the victim’s family may be able to initiate a wrongful death lawsuit against an employer or manufacturer.
Who Is Liable for Chemical Exposure Injuries?
Determining liability for a chemical exposure injury or death can be complicated. Many victims find it helpful to get advice from a personal injury attorney before submitting a workers’ compensation claim or filing a civil lawsuit.
Creating a safe work environment is the employer’s responsibility. If an employee is harmed at work due to chemical exposure, they can usually receive a financial settlement through a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ comp should provide coverage for medical bills and lost wages.
In order to claim workers’ comp benefits, you must be able to prove that your injury or disease was caused by exposure to toxic chemicals and that the exposure occurred at work. If the injury or disease caused a permanent disability, you may be eligible for disability benefits that provide income while you cannot work and a chance to retrain for a different job (if possible).
West Virginia law allows some victims of work-related injuries to pursue Mandolidis claims. This type of lawsuit is different from a workers’ compensation claim. A Mandolidis claim may be brought against an employer that knowingly endangered a worker by placing them in an unsafe situation. For example, if an employer knew that a specific action would bring an employee into contact with toxic chemicals and ordered the employee to do it anyway, the victim may seek compensation through a Mandolidis claim.
A third party
In some cases, victims of work-related toxic chemical exposure may be able to pursue compensation from a third party instead of (or in addition to) their employer. For example, if the exposure occurred due to defective personal protective equipment, the victim may file a lawsuit against the equipment manufacturer.
Collecting Documentation for a Work Injury
In some cases, an employer may try to deny workers’ comp benefits by arguing that the exposure occurred due to the employee’s negligence or disregard of safety rules. Or the employer may claim that the employee’s injury wasn’t caused by toxic chemicals or that the exposure didn’t occur on the worksite. Thorough documentation can help a victim prove that the employer (and/or a third party) is liable for their injury or illness.
If you are involved in a work incident that exposed you to hazardous chemicals, it’s important to make a thorough record of the accident. Gather as much evidence as possible: photos, witness statements, medical tests, and diagnosis information. It’s usually best to file a claim or lawsuit as soon as possible. However, some diseases aren’t obvious until years after the exposure occurred, which can make compensation claims more complicated. A personal injury attorney can help you understand your options for pursuing compensation.
Contact an Expert Personal Injury Attorney
Getting hurt on the job can be devastating, especially if you end up with a serious illness or permanent disability. While West Virginia laws allow workers to seek compensation from their employers for work-related toxic chemical exposure, the process for these claims can be overwhelming.
At Prim Law, we have decades of experience helping victims and their families pursue fair compensation for work-related injuries. When you call our team, we’ll discuss your case and help you figure out the best strategy to seek damages from the liable party.
To schedule a free consultation, call our office in Hurricane at 304-201-2425 or use our online form.