Date Of Disablement: The Most Important Date In Establishing An Occupational Disease Case

In an occupational disease case, three pieces of information are necessary to establish a claim: (1) the date of disablement; (2) the date on which the claimant knew or should have known that the condition was related to employment; and (3) the date on which the claim was filed. The date of disablement is by far the most contentious of the three dates being litigated at trial.

 

In most cases where the date of disablement is at issue, several carriers are often left contesting liability based on their interpretation of the day the claimant first became disabled.  Typically, individuals develop an occupational disease over several years, if not decades. In most instances, the claimant will have performed numerous jobs while continuously developing the occupational disease. During the time period in which the claimant is working, the employer ordinarily switches insurance coverage. As such, the date of disablement often becomes a highly controversial issue. Additionally, litigating this issue can afford a carrier the opportunity to be relieved from the case before it is established, if established.

 

While the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) has considerable discretion in setting the date of disablement, the WCB has typically relied on the following:

 

1. The first date of causally related medical treatment;

2. The date on which the doctor “definitively” diagnosed the condition as work-related;

3. The date on which the claimant began to lose time from work due to the work-related disability;

4. The date on which the claimant was advised by a physician to stop working due to the work-related disability;

5. and The date on which the claimant actually ceased working due to the disability.

 

Although the WCB has a considerable amount of discretion in determining the date of disablement, retaining an aggressive defense counsel will be necessary to adequately represent the carrier’s interests.

 

If you have any questions regarding the date of disablement of a Workers’ Compensation claim, please contact Bedoya & Hussain Law Firm, LLC, at (201) 880-9374.