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Workplace Chemicals Exposure and Virginia Workers’ Compensation


Working with chemicals exposes employees to serious health risks every day. Chemical spills, toxic fumes, and dangerous substances can all lead to acute injuries or long-term illnesses for those exposed. If you have suffered health problems due to chemical exposure at work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in Virginia. 

At Slominski Law, Attorney Jaleh Slominski has over 30 years of experience helping injured workers get the compensation they deserve after on-the-job harm. She understands the complexities of chemical exposure cases and can build a strong claim to cover your lost wages, medical treatment, and more.

For a free consultation on your workplace chemical injury case, call (434) 384-9400 (Lynchburg office) or or (540) 554-3762 (Roanoke office) today.

Chemical Exposure Hazards in Virginia Workplaces

Many jobs involve daily interaction with hazardous chemicals that can harm your health. Over time, toxic exposure may lead to chemical burns, lung damage, cancer, reproductive issues, and other serious medical problems. Common workplace chemical hazards include:

  • Industrial solvents – Found in adhesives, degreasers, paint thinners, and other solutions. Overexposure can cause brain, liver, kidney damage, and more.
  • Heavy metals – Lead, mercury, chrome, and other metals can harm kidneys, lungs, affect brain function, and may cause cancer at high concentrations.
  • Asbestos – Used in older insulation, flooring, and roofing materials, asbestos fibers are linked to mesothelioma and lung cancer if inhaled.
  • Pesticides – Farm workers, exterminators, gardeners, and the like risk illness from organophosphates, arsenic, chlorpyrifos, and other chemicals.
  • Gasses and vapors – Fumes from welding, painting, chemical processing, and other tasks may contain carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and lung irritants.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2020 alone, 6,780 severe illnesses and injuries occurred in Virginia workplaces due to harmful substance exposure. These numbers likely underrepresent the true scope of the problem, as many chemical-related diseases can take years to manifest symptoms.

Prolonged contact with industrial chemicals may slowly undermine your health, or a single large exposure could cause immediate injury. Getting timely medical treatment and identifying the source of contamination is critical after any chemical accident or exposure at work.

Steps to Take After Exposure to Toxic Chemicals

If you or a coworker shows signs of illness after contact with workplace chemicals, quick action can greatly impact health outcomes. Follow these steps right away:

    • Seek Medical Care. Get away from the contaminated area and call 911 for emergency assistance if needed. Even if you feel fine at first, see a doctor to get examined and discuss treatment options, as some illnesses can show up years down the road. Be sure to mention possible chemical causes.
    • Identify the Chemical. Note the name, manufacturer, concentration, and other details about the substance involved. This aids diagnosis and pinpoints liability.
  • Document the Exposure. Record in writing the details of exposure such as date, time, and location. If possible, take photos and get contact details of potential witnesses. These can help verify events later.
  • Report the Incident. Alert supervisors and follow company policy for documenting accidents with hazardous materials. Reporting promptly can support your claim later.
  • Consider Filing a Report. For serious incidents, call the Occupational Safety and Health Administration at 1-800-321-OSHA to report health violations and chemical dangers.
  • Contact an Attorney. To protect your right to benefits, call a dedicated workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible after exposure and injury occurs.

Virginia Workers’ Compensation for Chemical Exposure

The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act provides medical, wage, and other benefits to employees hurt from workplace hazards. This includes illness and injury caused by exposure to chemicals on the job. To claim workers’ comp after toxic exposure, you must show:

  • You were injured or made ill due to chemicals used for work purposes.
  • The exposure occurred within the course and scope of regular work duties.
  • Medical evidence supports that the chemical substances caused the health effects.

In some cases, the insurance company may dispute whether chemicals fully or directly triggered your impairment or disability. An experienced attorney can help establish causation through medical opinions, research studies, liability experts, and other evidence.

It is also possible to bring civil lawsuits against third parties that negligently caused chemical accidents in Virginia workplaces. However, workers’ compensation usually prevents suing employers directly. An attorney can advise if you have grounds for additional damages claims.

Key Benefits Available in Chemical Exposure Claims

Virginia workers’ compensation benefits are meant to cover costs and offset lost income after on-the-job injuries. For chemical exposure victims, available compensation may include:

  1. Medical expenses – Pays for hospital visits, medications, devices, testing, and care costs related to chemical illness or injury. No caps or limits apply, and medical benefits typically cover a lifetime.
  2. Lost wage replacement – Compensates for partial or total loss of income during recovery periods. Covers 66 2/3% of average weekly wages for most claims.
  3. Permanent disability – Provides wage supplements if exposure causes lasting disabilities that impact earning capacity. The amount depends on the medical impairment rating assessed.
  4. Disfigurement awards – Grants additional money for scarring and physical effects like skin grafting or lung removal resulting from chemical accidents.
  5. Death benefits – Pays burial costs plus wage replacement for dependents of workers killed by chemical hazards.

Skilled legal help maximizes compensation and ensures full insurance payouts following serious exposures requiring extensive treatment.

Proving Workplace Chemical Exposure Claims

Chemical exposure cases pose some unique challenges to employees seeking workers’ benefits in Virginia:

  • Latency periods – Many chemical-related diseases take years to manifest, making causation hard to confirm.
  • Prior health issues – The victim’s pre-existing conditions may allow insurers to deny claims related to chemical contamination.
  • Limited testing or data – Air quality samples, chemical markers in the body, and other confirmation may be unavailable.
  • Employer disputes – Businesses often fight liability for fear of increased insurance costs in chemical exposure cases.

Successfully overcoming these hurdles requires comprehensive evidence and arguments best handled by a seasoned workers’ compensation attorney in Virginia. Critical strategies include:

  • Using medical experts – A reliable law firm should get opinions from specialists who understand the chemical’s impacts on health over time. Examples of such experts are an occupational medicine doctor, toxicologist, or cancer specialist.
  • Gathering exposure proof – Our firm knows how to collect safety data sheets, industrial hygiene surveys, your employment records, and other confirmation showing your contact with hazardous chemicals.
  • Researching similar cases – We’ll look for studies of workers in the same industry who had identical exposures and health effects. This supports causation arguments.
  • Reconstructing events – We can build a timeline with testimony from supervisors and coworkers detailing spills, accidents, or unsafe handling practices that caused contamination.

In some disputes, an independent medical exam may be requested or negotiations through the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission become necessary. An attorney well-versed in these proceedings can get your evidence before decision-makers in the best light possible. With sound preparation and persistence, we can achieve favorable benefits.

Choosing the Right Lawyer for Your Chemical Exposure Claim

To have the best shot at rightful compensation after toxic workplace exposure, work with a trusted and attentive lawyer. Attorney Jaleh Slominski brings over 30 years of dedicated experience representing injured workers in Virginia. She offers injured victims:

  • Compassionate counsel and a listening ear
  • A thorough investigation of your exposure events
  • Careful case development using medical, vocational, and chemical hazard experts
  • Aggressive challenges to employer denials and defenses
  • Superior negotiations to gain full settlements.

Attorney Jaleh Slominski has helped numerous Virginians secure wage replacements, medical funds, and justice after suffering serious injuries in their careers. Contact her today for candid answers and guidance on your path forward. Call for a free consultation now at (434) 384-9400 (Lynchburg office) or (540) 554-3762 (Roanoke office).