Proposed Bill Extends 300-Week Deadline for Filing a Toxic Exposure Claim

June 11, 2019

House Bill 1234 would extend the 300-week deadline, which currently prohibits those affected by toxic workplace exposure from obtaining workers’ compensation benefits. Currently, Pennsylvania workers are not entitled to workers’ compensation for occupational diseases that manifest more than 300 weeks after the employee’s last exposure or date of employment. The new bill proposes extending the deadline to allow employees with mesothelioma and other long-latency period diseases to file workers’ compensation claims and collect benefits.

Occupational Disease Claims in Pennsylvania

Occupational diseases typically develop after lengthy exposure to toxins in the workplace, such as asbestos, arsenic, lead, mercury, radium, and silica. The Pennsylvania Occupational Disease Act (PODA) lists the occupational diseases covered by workers’ compensation, including:

  • Asbestosis
  • Black lung disease
  • Caisson disease
  • Cancer
  • Hepatitis
  • Infection or inflammation of the skin
  • Infectious diseases
  • Radium poisoning
  • Silicosis
  • Tuberculosis

Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, to prevail on an occupational disease claim, a worker must suffer disability or death within 300 weeks of their last workplace exposure or date of employment. Therefore, those who learn that they have an occupational illness outside of the 300-week window are typically barred from recovery.

This poses a problem for many employees who were exposed to asbestos decades ago and were unaware that they had developed an occupational disease until long after they left their jobs. It is now widely known that asbestos exposure can lead to diseases such as mesothelioma, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can have latency periods of up to 71 years.

Exception to the 300-Week Deadline

The landmark case, Tooey vs. AK Steel, provides a loophole for workers whose symptoms do not appear until 300 weeks after their last workplace exposure. In the case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court went against the general rule that workers’ compensation is the “exclusive remedy” for all workplace injuries and illnesses, holding that workers with occupational diseases may still file a civil lawsuit against their employers past the 300-week restriction placed on workers’ compensation claims.

The House and Labor Industry Committee Chairman and primary sponsor of the bill notes that lawsuits typically take longer than workers’ compensation claims to settle, leaving workers who are suffering from life-threatening diseases such as mesothelioma without the money they need for treatment. The bill would allow workers with long-latency occupational diseases to collect benefits through the workers’ compensation process.

Opponents of the bill cite undue financial burden, explaining that small businesses may refuse to set up or expand in Pennsylvania for fear of opening themselves up to liability. However, the bill’s sponsor highlights the necessity of a remedy for employees who do not develop symptoms of occupational diseases until long after the 300-week limitation. The committee is currently revising the language of the statute to ensure it accurately reflects their intentions.

Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Advocate for Workers with Occupational Diseases

If you have been diagnosed with an occupational disease, contact a Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorney at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Our knowledgeable attorneys have over 35 years of experience helping workers obtain the benefits to which they are entitled. Please complete our online contact form or call us at 888-PITT-LAW for a free consultation today.

Conveniently located in PhiladelphiaBensalemLansdowne, and Reading, we represent injured workers in Berks CountyBucks CountyChester CountyDelaware CountyMontgomery CountyPhiladelphia County, and throughout Pennsylvania, including those in the communities of AbingtonAmblerArdmoreBala CynwydBensalemClifton HeightsCrum LynneDarbyDowningtownDoylestownDrexel HillEssingtonFolcroftGlenoldenHaverfordHavertownHolmesKutztownLansdowneMediaMerion StationMortonNarberthNorristownNorwoodPhiladelphiaProspect ParkQuakertownReadingRoxboroughSharon HillUpper DarbyWest Chester, and Wynnewood.