When people think of workers’ compensation, they likely think about workplace accidents that cause injuries. In these common scenarios, a worker is injured — either temporarily or permanently — as a result of some incident that happened at work. However, workers’ compensation benefits are not only limited to work-related injuries, but can also apply to occupational diseases.

According to the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board, an occupational disease is a disease that occurs to specific workers because of the nature and conditions present in a particular workplace. Asbestosis, for example, is an occupational disease associated with asbestos removal. A worker can have an occupational disease even if the person does not miss any time from work.

If a worker develops an occupational disease, that worker is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. These are the same benefits the worker would have been entitled to if the worker was hurt in a workplace accident. However, the time lines for applying for workers’ compensation benefits is different for occupational diseases.

The Workers’ Compensation Board says that to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits workers with occupational diseases must file within the later of two dates — either two years after the worker found out — or should have found out — that the disease was caused by the person’s employment or two years from the date of the disability — which is determined by a Workers’ Compensation Law Judge.

If a worker is killed by an occupational disease, then the worker’s family can also apply for workers’ compensation benefits. In this case, the worker’s family is held to the same time constraints as living workers.