Hearing loss occurs much more commonly than you may think. However, in many cases, hearing loss isn’t inevitable; it’s preventable, and employees only experience it because their employers are negligent in one way or another.
Whether you or a loved one has suffered partial or full hearing loss from work, you need to know if your employer is liable and whether you can sue them. Read on to discover the answers to these questions, or contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers directly at 516-342-2200 or online for a free consultation.
What Types Of Hearing Loss Are There?
Hearing loss can happen to anyone. Listening to any noise above 70 decibels (dB) for a prolonged period puts you at risk of damaging your hearing. As well, loud noise of greater than 120 dB can immediately injure your ears, even if it doesn’t seem like it initially. As such, we should all be careful about noise exposure and noise-induced hearing loss, particularly those who work in the construction industry.
Particularly in industries like construction and manufacturing, hearing loss is among the most common workplace injuries. In point of fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, private industry workers suffered over (14,000) work-related hearing loss cases in 2019 alone.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) indicates that average hearing loss rates in private industry hover around 1.4 cases per 10,000 full-time workers, especially for those who work around high noise levels all day long.
But not all hearing loss is equal. Hearing loss can include minor or almost insignificant hearing loss, or it can mean complete deafness, which is characterized by losing hearing in both ears.
Other individuals experience hearing loss alongside secondary conditions like tinnitus, a ringing sound in the ears that can also range from minor to severe. You may require hearing aids to carry out your daily activities, or you may need to undergo a hearing test with your doctor to discover the extent of your hazardous noise damage.
What Types Of Hearing Loss Incidents Occur In The Workplace?
When it comes to workers’ comp claims and lawsuits related to hearing loss in the workplace, how you lose your hearing or how your ears are damaged affects your options. Broadly speaking, there are two (2) types of hearing loss claims according to New York State Workers’ Compensation Law.
Traumatic Hearing Loss
Traumatic hearing loss results suddenly from a single, unexpected event, like an explosion or a construction site accident. For example, traumatic hearing loss can significantly damage your ears or eardrums, causing you to partially or completely lose your hearing over a few seconds or minutes.
Occupational Hearing Loss
Repetitive use or occupational hearing loss occurs from exposing your ears to loud noises over several months or years. As an example, many individuals who work for the American Navy or Air Force lose their hearing partially or completely over their careers, as they are exposed to loud noises like aircraft engines for many hours over the course of the workday (even though they also wear hearing protection).
Note: Both types of hearing loss will likely qualify you for workers’ compensation in New York State.
Can You Recover Workers’ Comp For Work-Related Hearing Loss?
Whether you lose your hearing progressively or in a single instant (as with traumatic hearing loss), you may qualify for workers’ compensation due to hearing loss sustained at the workplace or while in the performance of work-related duties.
As with other workers’ comp claims, you must file a claim upon noticing that you have lost your hearing. Depending on how long ago you lost your hearing or how long ago the incident was, your claim may require additional information and an examination by an otolaryngologist. An otolaryngologist is a physician trained in the examination and treatment of patients who have disorders or diseases of the ears, nose, and throat.
The otolaryngologist will likely test your hearing and determine the most likely cause of your hearing loss. For instance, if you worked in the construction industry around loud machinery for (20) years, the otolaryngologist may say that your work is indeed at least partially responsible for your loss of hearing.
Note: It is absolutely critical that you be 100% honest about your symptoms and when you first noticed the degradation of your hearing. Any sign that you are lying or stretching the truth to maximize your workers’ comp payouts could cause your claim to be thrown out entirely.
What Is A Scheduled Loss Of Use Award?
If your workers’ comp claim is successful, you could be entitled to back pay benefits for a certain amount of time, as well as a scheduled loss of use award.
The scheduled loss of use award will aim to compensate you for your hearing loss for a very long time to come, potentially in perpetuity. This kind of payment will likely help you pay for necessities including but not limited to:
- Appointments with an audiologist, who will probably examine the condition of your inner ear and recommend things like cochlear implants, earmuffs, earplugs, and more
- Dealing with permanent hearing loss through the use of implants or other audiology procedures
- If you are no longer able to carry out the same work duties as before because you are now hard of hearing
Can You Sue Your Employer For Work-Related Hearing Loss?
What happens if your employer caused a single traumatic event through negligence or maliciousness, and you lost your hearing as a result? Many New Yorkers wonder if they can sue their employer for work-related hearing loss rather than collecting standard workers’ compensation.
Your employer could be liable for your work-related hearing loss. Provided that you have sufficient evidence, you may be able to sue your employer and recover damages for:
- Past and future medical bills
- Lost income from time spent away from your work
- Pain and suffering compensation
- Loss of ability compensation if your hearing loss is permanent and has negatively affected your abilities in some way (e.g., you are now deaf as a result of a single workplace accident)
However, if your hearing loss was truly accidental or due to an act of God, your employer will not likely be held liable. Furthermore, suing your employer for work-related hearing loss can be difficult, and there are two primary considerations to keep in mind.
You Must Prove Negligence
First, you must prove that your employer was negligent in some way. Your employer already has a responsibility to keep you and your fellow employees safe, as well as provide you with appropriate safety equipment.
If your employer did not take those actions, or if your employer deliberately placed you in harm’s way such that your hearing was damaged, they could be held liable for a future lawsuit.
You can prove negligence on the part of your employer by collecting evidence, getting eyewitness accounts, and showing medical records and a court (which may prove that your hearing loss is the result of a traumatic event, not general workplace hazards or noises).
You Can’t Accept Workers’ Comp
Second, if you choose to sue your employer for work-related hearing loss, you probably will not be able to accept workers’ compensation for the same injuries. You can only choose one or the other.
This can be a difficult decision for many employed New Yorkers. Workers’ comp payments usually arrive much faster compared to lawsuit payouts (assuming you are successful). If you need money quickly, your attorney may recommend accepting workers’ compensation payments instead of filing a lawsuit unless you have extensive evidence proving negligence and the lawsuit has an excellent chance of being successful.
If you’re not sure whether you should file a claim for workers’ compensation for your hearing loss or sue your employer, get in touch with Schwartzapfel Lawyers right away online or at 516-342-2200. Our experienced attorneys will thoroughly assess the details of your case and help you determine the best path forward for your situation.
How Long Do You Have To File a Claim for Hearing Loss?
Whether you choose to file a workers’ comp claim or a lawsuit against your employer for hearing loss, you need to make sure you file your claim on time. The rules are different depending on the legal action you choose to take.
Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim
Compared to other workplace injuries, New York laws treat hearing loss a little differently. If you want to file a workers’ comp claim for losing some or all hearing function in time, you have three (3) months to report it to your employer and (90) days to file your claim.
The exact starting point for your workers’ comp claim can be:
- When you leave the company, if the injury caused you to terminate your employment with your employer
- From when you were no longer exposed to the noise that caused the hearing loss (if it was a significant or isolated event)
- From when you received a medical diagnosis of hearing loss (if your hearing loss was occupational in nature
Note: If you want to bring a claim for occupational hearing loss, you have to be out of the harmful exposure for at least (90) days. For example, you need to no longer be working at the same construction site or no longer be around the same loud machines to qualify.
Because of this, most individuals file occupational hearing loss claims after they retire, are terminated, or are disabled by some other injury or condition.
Filing a Lawsuit
What if you want to sue your employer? In that case, the statute of limitations applies.
To file a lawsuit against your employer for traumatic or occupational hearing loss, the statute of limitations is two (2) years. For a traumatic hearing loss case, the statute of limitations countdown ends two (2) years from the date of the traumatic event (e.g., the day of the explosion that damaged your hearing).
For occupational hearing loss cases, the statute of limitations is two (2) years and (90) days after knowing that your loss of hearing was because of the nature of your employment. For example, if you discover after the fact that your employer exposed your ears to illegally loud sounds, you have two (2) years and (90) days from realizing that to file a lawsuit.
And while this may appear to be a substantial amount of time, it can go by quickly. As such, it is all the more critical that you promptly consult with seasoned attorneys about your case.
How Can Seasoned Attorneys Assist?
Experienced construction accident, personal injury, and workers’ compensation attorneys can provide great assistance whether you choose to file a workers’ comp claim or pursue other remedial options. For example, they can:
- Help ensure that you file the right paperwork with the right individuals
- Negotiate with insurance companies or your employer on your behalf
- Collect and present compelling evidence
- Offer wise legal counsel to allow you to make the best possible decision for yourself and your loved ones
- And so much more!
Dealing with hearing loss is difficult enough. But you should know that you don’t have to shoulder all of these burdens alone. Get in touch with knowledgeable attorneys like Schwartzapfel Lawyers instead by calling 516-342-2200 or visiting us online today.
Contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers Today
Ultimately, it is possible to sue your employer for work-related hearing loss. But you should only ever do so with knowledgeable attorneys backing you up and working hard to see that you win.
Schwartzapfel Lawyers can do that and more. With over 150 years of combined experience and hundreds of satisfied clients, we’re among the best when it comes to pursuing all the money and benefits you deserve.
For a free case evaluation and peace of mind, reach out to our team by calling 516-342-2200 or visiting us online today. Your future is worth protecting. Start now by having Schwartzapfel Lawyers fight for you!
DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this page should be considered legal advice. You should seek the appropriate counsel your situation requires. For more information, call 1-516-342-2200 now!