When Your Cancer Diagnosis is Related to Your Employment
- Dan T. Matrafajlo
- Sat Mar 2018
- Workers Compensation,
More than likely, it isn’t news to you that cancer has been linked to work-related conditions for many years. In a previous article, we’ve previously discussed how work-related cancers caused by toxins in your work environment may be compensable through a worker’s compensation claim. However, there are other circumstances where your cancer diagnosis may be related to your employment.
Continuous exposure to such toxins as asbestos and chemicals is considered occupational exposure. Meanwhile, New Jersey law has long recognized that cancer can be a result of a traumatic injury. If that traumatic injury was work-related, the resulting cancer might be eligible for a worker’s compensation award.
It’s a sad fact that the New Jersey courts have repeatedly recognized. Traumatic damage to your body can both trigger cancer when you were otherwise healthy, as well as exacerbate pre-existing conditions. And while the court will take into account a previous diagnosis when determining an appropriate award, you are entitled to an award if a traumatic work injury accelerates or aggravates pre-existing cancer. In other words, a court may order an award if an injury worsens a condition you already had or prematurely brought about a level of severity of the disease you were going to face regardless eventually.
Traumatically-Induced Cancer in New Jersey
Consider the case of Celeste vs. Progressive Silk Finishing Company. Nicola Celeste, an employee of Progressive, was in good health with no previous illnesses in his medical history when he went to work on a September day. As Mr. Celeste was assisting a co-worker in moving a 500-pound roll of dress fabric, he felt a sharp pain in his lower back. Mr. Celeste continued to work, eventually seeking treatment for back pain a week later. Over the course of the next three weeks, Mr. Celeste was treated by the company doctor repeatedly for pain, only for his condition to become so debilitating he could no longer work by the end of that same September.
After dozens of visits to multiple doctors, Mr. Celeste was diagnosed with a type of cancer known as metastatic carcinoma. He then passed away after several months of treatment. Mr. Celeste’s widow pursued worker’s compensation benefits, where she relied on doctor testimony that Mr. Celeste’s back injury aggravated a metastatic lesion on his spine. It was the physician’s testimony that this injury hastened the spread of cancer that would ultimately kill Mr. Celeste. The court agreed, awarding the widow dependency benefits.
Medical researchers have long studied the cause and effect of cancer. For example, some cases, it seems apparent that a traumatic event caused the formation of soft tissue tumors. However, in order to relate the cancer to a work accident, a medical expert must provide an opinion.
Have you recently been diagnosed with cancer? Did you receive a traumatic injury at work that you believe could be the root of your cancer diagnosis? The Law Offices of Beninato and Matrafaljo have more than seventy years of combined experience representing injured workers and can help counsel you on whether you have a claim for worker’s compensation benefits. Contact us immediately for a free consultation.