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Hernias do not meet occupational disease definition in Maryland workers compensation

Hernia work injuries must occur form an accidental injury to be compensable in Maryland workers compensation.  Recently, the Maryland Court of Appeals decided a case on hernias and occupational disease.

Let’s start there.  Under the Maryland Workers Compensation Act, an injured worker can claim an accidental injury or an occupational disease. The definition of these distinct injures are:

An accidental injury is one that happens ‘by chance or without design, taking place unexpectedly or unintentionally.”

As for occupational diseases, these are illnesses caused by the nature of the circumstances surrounding the worker’s job. For example, asbestosis is a disease that may have been caused by a worker’s job of removing asbestos from buildings. Some forms of skin, eye or lung disease may have been caused by long term exposure to chemical solvents or other solutions used on the job. Conditions such as these may result in the employee’s being covered by workers’ compensation even though there was no specific “accident;” they are covered as occupational diseases.

In the case on point here, the injured worker alleged an inguinal hernia was caused by repetitive lifting during the course and scope of his employment over a ten year period.   In Maryland, repetitive trauma is considered an occupational disease, unlike in Pennsylvania.

At the initial decision, the Maryland Workers Compensation Commission denied the hernia as an occupational disease.  Specifically, the Commission referred to §9-504 of the Maryland Labor and Industry Code, that specified

Except as otherwise provided, an employer shall provide compensation in accordance with this title to a covered employee for a hernia caused by an accidental personal injury or by a strain arising out of and in the course of employment if:

(ii) as a result of the accidental personal injury or strain, a preexisting hernia has become so aggravated, incarcerated, or strangulated that an immediate operation is needed;

The statute consistently refers to accidental injury and therefore a hernia is not considered as an occupational disease.  The claimant appealed to the Circuit Court, and the Court affirmed the Commission’s decision. Claimant then appealed to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the Circuit Court and the Commission, specifically saying;

In our view, if the legislature intended to cover a hernia as an occupational disease under the Act, there would have been no reason to create a specific separate section detailing when a hernia is compensable pursuant to LE § 9-504. Furthermore, if this was the legislature’s intent, the General Assembly would not have specifically omitted the phrase “occupational disease” in its discussion of compensable hernias in LE § 9-504.

Maryland will not classify hernia conditions as occupational diseases.  The hernia must have resulted from an accidental injury.

If you have been injured at work, do not hesitate to call Mooney Law.  We will set up an absolutely free phone consultation for Maryland injured workers.  Our office will also file your workers compensation claim on your behalf, further ensuring accuracy and detail.  Call today at 833-MOONEYLAW for a free consultation.  You can also visit us on the web at Mooney4Law.com.