I have a very sad workers compensation death claim for a young man who was a painter for several years with a local company that paints aircraft and automobile parts. He started coughing one day and within a couple of weeks had bruises over his body and was extremely fatigued, and starting spitting up blood. He checked himself into the hospital and was diagnosed with acute leukemia and passed away within 8 days. He left behind a young wife and two kids.
I have to say that I hate handling cases like that, although it is very gratifying to help a family take a horrible situation and turn it for the better. In this case, I ended up researching a lot about the link between leukemia and benzene, which is a common component in paint and other solvents. Most of my research pointed to the accepted fact that painters are at a higher risk to getting leukemia because of their prolonged exposure to high amounts of benzene in the paint they mix and spray.
I will now need to obtain information from the employer to show what chemicals my client may have been exposed to while working for them. I will need medical expert testimony to show that it is more likely than not that my client's exposure to those chemicals caused his leukemia which in turn caused his death. His family will then receive survivors benefits under the Arizona Workers Compensation Act.
This case serves as a reminder that many jobs that seem otherwise to be very harmless can be in fact potentially fatal. Workers should be aware of the chemicals that they are exposed to and the potential long term affects that they can have on the body. Employers are required to maintain Material Safety Data Sheets for any chemical compounds that workers use. It would be wise to know what you're being exposed to before it's too late.
Chad T. Snow is an attorney who represents injured workers before the Industrial Commission of Arizona and the Social Security Administration. He can be reached at Snow, Carpio, and Weekley, at his Phoenix office at (602) 532-0700, or in Tucson at (520) 647-9000.