Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 65.2. Workers' Compensation
Chapter 4. Occupational Diseases
4/18/2021

Chapter 4. Occupational Diseases.

§ 65.2-400. "Occupational disease" defined.

A. As used in this title, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise, the term "occupational disease" means a disease arising out of and in the course of employment, but not an ordinary disease of life to which the general public is exposed outside of the employment.

B. A disease shall be deemed to arise out of the employment only if there is apparent to the rational mind, upon consideration of all the circumstances:

1. A direct causal connection between the conditions under which work is performed and the occupational disease;

2. It can be seen to have followed as a natural incident of the work as a result of the exposure occasioned by the nature of the employment;

3. It can be fairly traced to the employment as the proximate cause;

4. It is neither a disease to which an employee may have had substantial exposure outside of the employment, nor any condition of the neck, back or spinal column;

5. It is incidental to the character of the business and not independent of the relation of employer and employee; and

6. It had its origin in a risk connected with the employment and flowed from that source as a natural consequence, though it need not have been foreseen or expected before its contraction.

C. Hearing loss and the condition of carpal tunnel syndrome are not occupational diseases but are ordinary diseases of life as defined in § 65.2-401.

Code 1950, § 65-42; 1952, c. 603; 1968, c. 660, § 65.1-46; 1970, c. 470; 1986, c. 378; 1991, c. 355; 1997, cc. 15, 405.

§ 65.2-401. "Ordinary disease of life" coverage.

An ordinary disease of life to which the general public is exposed outside of the employment may be treated as an occupational disease for purposes of this title if each of the following elements is established by clear and convincing evidence, (not a mere probability):

1. That the disease exists and arose out of and in the course of employment as provided in § 65.2-400 with respect to occupational diseases and did not result from causes outside of the employment, and

2. That one of the following exists:

a. It follows as an incident of occupational disease as defined in this title; or

b. It is an infectious or contagious disease contracted in the course of one's employment in a hospital or sanitarium or laboratory or nursing home as defined in § 32.1-123, or while otherwise engaged in the direct delivery of health care, or in the course of employment as emergency rescue personnel and those volunteer emergency rescue personnel referred to in § 65.2-101; or

c. It is characteristic of the employment and was caused by conditions peculiar to such employment.

1986, c. 378, § 65.1-46.1; 1989, c. 502; 1991, c. 355; 1997, cc. 15, 405.

§ 65.2-402. Presumption as to death or disability from respiratory disease, hypertension or heart disease, cancer.

A. Respiratory diseases that cause (i) the death of volunteer or salaried firefighters or Department of Emergency Management hazardous materials officers or (ii) any health condition or impairment of such firefighters or Department of Emergency Management hazardous materials officers resulting in total or partial disability shall be presumed to be occupational diseases, suffered in the line of duty, that are covered by this title unless such presumption is overcome by a preponderance of competent evidence to the contrary.

B. Hypertension or heart disease causing the death of, or any health condition or impairment resulting in total or partial disability of any of the following persons who have completed five years of service in their position as (i) salaried or volunteer firefighters, (ii) members of the State Police Officers' Retirement System, (iii) members of county, city or town police departments, (iv) sheriffs and deputy sheriffs, (v) Department of Emergency Management hazardous materials officers, (vi) city sergeants or deputy city sergeants of the City of Richmond, (vii) Virginia Marine Police officers, (viii) conservation police officers who are full-time sworn members of the enforcement division of the Department of Wildlife Resources, (ix) Capitol Police officers, (x) special agents of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority appointed under the provisions of Chapter 1 (§ 4.1-100 et seq.) of Title 4.1, (xi) for such period that the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority voluntarily subjects itself to the provisions of this chapter as provided in § 65.2-305, officers of the police force established and maintained by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, (xii) officers of the police force established and maintained by the Norfolk Airport Authority, (xiii) sworn officers of the police force established and maintained by the Virginia Port Authority, and (xiv) campus police officers appointed under Article 3 (§ 23.1-809 et seq.) of Chapter 8 of Title 23.1 and employed by any public institution of higher education shall be presumed to be occupational diseases, suffered in the line of duty, that are covered by this title unless such presumption is overcome by a preponderance of competent evidence to the contrary.

C. Leukemia or pancreatic, prostate, rectal, throat, ovarian, breast, colon, brain, or testicular cancer causing the death of, or any health condition or impairment resulting in total or partial disability of, any volunteer or salaried firefighter, Department of Emergency Management hazardous materials officer, commercial vehicle enforcement officer or motor carrier safety trooper employed by the Department of State Police, or full-time sworn member of the enforcement division of the Department of Motor Vehicles having completed five years of service shall be presumed to be an occupational disease, suffered in the line of duty, that is covered by this title, unless such presumption is overcome by a preponderance of competent evidence to the contrary. For colon, brain, or testicular cancer, the presumption shall not apply for any individual who was diagnosed with such a condition before July 1, 2020.

D. The presumptions described in subsections A, B, and C shall only apply if persons entitled to invoke them have, if requested by the private employer, appointing authority or governing body employing them, undergone preemployment physical examinations that (i) were conducted prior to the making of any claims under this title that rely on such presumptions, (ii) were performed by physicians whose qualifications are as prescribed by the private employer, appointing authority or governing body employing such persons, (iii) included such appropriate laboratory and other diagnostic studies as the private employer, appointing authorities or governing bodies may have prescribed, and (iv) found such persons free of respiratory diseases, hypertension, cancer or heart disease at the time of such examinations.

E. Persons making claims under this title who rely on such presumptions shall, upon the request of private employers, appointing authorities or governing bodies employing such persons, submit to physical examinations (i) conducted by physicians selected by such employers, authorities, bodies or their representatives and (ii) consisting of such tests and studies as may reasonably be required by such physicians. However, a qualified physician, selected and compensated by the claimant, may, at the election of such claimant, be present at such examination.

F. Whenever a claim for death benefits is made under this title and the presumptions of this section are invoked, any person entitled to make such claim shall, upon the request of the appropriate private employer, appointing authority or governing body that had employed the deceased, submit the body of the deceased to a postmortem examination as may be directed by the Commission. A qualified physician, selected and compensated by the person entitled to make the claim, may, at the election of such claimant, be present at such postmortem examination.

G. Volunteer emergency medical services personnel, volunteer law-enforcement chaplains, auxiliary and reserve deputy sheriffs, and auxiliary and reserve police are not included within the coverage of this section.

H. For purposes of this section, "firefighter" includes special forest wardens designated pursuant to § 10.1-1135 and any persons who are employed by or contract with private employers primarily to perform firefighting services.

1975, c. 330, § 65.1-4.1; 1976, cc. 187, 772, § 65.1-47.1; 1977, cc. 326, 620; 1978, c. 761; 1983, c. 357; 1987, c. 308; 1991, cc. 354, 355; 1994, cc. 791, 960; 1997, c. 714; 1999, cc. 581, 597, 602, 604, 607; 2000, c. 1013; 2001, cc. 330, 581; 2002, cc. 309, 737, 789; 2007, cc. 143, 616; 2009, c. 515; 2012, c. 776; 2015, cc. 38, 502, 503, 730; 2020, cc. 498, 499, 958.

§ 65.2-402.1. Presumption as to death or disability from infectious disease.

A. Hepatitis, meningococcal meningitis, tuberculosis or HIV causing the death of, or any health condition or impairment resulting in total or partial disability of, any (i) salaried or volunteer firefighter, or salaried or volunteer emergency medical services personnel, (ii) member of the State Police Officers' Retirement System, (iii) member of county, city or town police departments, (iv) sheriff or deputy sheriff, (v) Department of Emergency Management hazardous materials officer, (vi) city sergeant or deputy city sergeant of the City of Richmond, (vii) Virginia Marine Police officer, (viii) conservation police officer who is a full-time sworn member of the enforcement division of the Department of Wildlife Resources, (ix) Capitol Police officer, (x) special agent of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority appointed under the provisions of Chapter 1 (§ 4.1-100 et seq.) of Title 4.1, (xi) for such period that the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority voluntarily subjects itself to the provisions of this chapter as provided in § 65.2-305, officer of the police force established and maintained by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, (xii) officer of the police force established and maintained by the Norfolk Airport Authority, (xiii) conservation officer of the Department of Conservation and Recreation commissioned pursuant to § 10.1-115, (xiv) sworn officer of the police force established and maintained by the Virginia Port Authority, (xv) campus police officer appointed under Article 3 (§ 23.1-809 et seq.) of Chapter 8 of Title 23.1 and employed by any public institution of higher education, (xvi) correctional officer as defined in § 53.1-1, or (xvii) full-time sworn member of the enforcement division of the Department of Motor Vehicles who has a documented occupational exposure to blood or body fluids shall be presumed to be occupational diseases, suffered in the line of government duty, that are covered by this title unless such presumption is overcome by a preponderance of competent evidence to the contrary. For purposes of this section, an occupational exposure occurring on or after July 1, 2002, shall be deemed "documented" if the person covered under this section gave notice, written or otherwise, of the occupational exposure to his employer, and an occupational exposure occurring prior to July 1, 2002, shall be deemed "documented" without regard to whether the person gave notice, written or otherwise, of the occupational exposure to his employer. For any correctional officer as defined in § 53.1-1 or full-time sworn member of the enforcement division of the Department of Motor Vehicles, the presumption shall not apply if such individual was diagnosed with hepatitis, meningococcal meningitis, or HIV before July 1, 2020.

B. As used in this section:

"Blood or body fluids" means blood and body fluids containing visible blood and other body fluids to which universal precautions for prevention of occupational transmission of blood-borne pathogens, as established by the Centers for Disease Control, apply. For purposes of potential transmission of hepatitis, meningococcal meningitis, tuberculosis, or HIV the term "blood or body fluids" includes respiratory, salivary, and sinus fluids, including droplets, sputum, saliva, mucous, and any other fluid through which infectious airborne or blood-borne organisms can be transmitted between persons.

"Hepatitis" means hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis non-A, hepatitis non-B, hepatitis C or any other strain of hepatitis generally recognized by the medical community.

"HIV" means the medically recognized retrovirus known as human immunodeficiency virus, type I or type II, causing immunodeficiency syndrome.

"Occupational exposure," in the case of hepatitis, meningococcal meningitis, tuberculosis or HIV, means an exposure that occurs during the performance of job duties that places a covered employee at risk of infection.

C. Persons covered under this section who test positive for exposure to the enumerated occupational diseases, but have not yet incurred the requisite total or partial disability, shall otherwise be entitled to make a claim for medical benefits pursuant to § 65.2-603, including entitlement to an annual medical examination to measure the progress of the condition, if any, and any other medical treatment, prophylactic or otherwise.

D. Whenever any standard, medically-recognized vaccine or other form of immunization or prophylaxis exists for the prevention of a communicable disease for which a presumption is established under this section, if medically indicated by the given circumstances pursuant to immunization policies established by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the United States Public Health Service, a person subject to the provisions of this section may be required by such person's employer to undergo the immunization or prophylaxis unless the person's physician determines in writing that the immunization or prophylaxis would pose a significant risk to the person's health. Absent such written declaration, failure or refusal by a person subject to the provisions of this section to undergo such immunization or prophylaxis shall disqualify the person from any presumption established by this section.

E. The presumptions described in subsection A shall only apply if persons entitled to invoke them have, if requested by the appointing authority or governing body employing them, undergone preemployment physical examinations that (i) were conducted prior to the making of any claims under this title that rely on such presumptions, (ii) were performed by physicians whose qualifications are as prescribed by the appointing authority or governing body employing such persons, (iii) included such appropriate laboratory and other diagnostic studies as the appointing authorities or governing bodies may have prescribed, and (iv) found such persons free of hepatitis, meningococcal meningitis, tuberculosis or HIV at the time of such examinations. The presumptions described in subsection A shall not be effective until six months following such examinations, unless such persons entitled to invoke such presumption can demonstrate a documented exposure during the six-month period.

F. Persons making claims under this title who rely on such presumption shall, upon the request of appointing authorities or governing bodies employing such persons, submit to physical examinations (i) conducted by physicians selected by such appointing authorities or governing bodies or their representatives and (ii) consisting of such tests and studies as may reasonably be required by such physicians. However, a qualified physician, selected and compensated by the claimant, may, at the election of such claimant, be present at such examination.

2002, c. 820; 2003, c. 842; 2007, cc. 87, 365; 2009, c. 417; 2011, c. 211; 2012, c. 776; 2015, cc. 38, 502, 503, 730; 2020, cc. 958, 1150, 1152.

§ 65.2-403. Provisions in respect to injury by accident, etc., applicable to occupational disease.

A. When the employer and employee are subject to the provisions of this title, first communication of the diagnosis of an occupational disease to the employee or death of the employee resulting from an occupational disease as herein listed and defined shall be treated as the happening of an injury by accident, and the employee or in case of his death his dependents shall be entitled to compensation as provided by this title.

B. An employee who has an occupational disease that is covered by this title shall be entitled to the same hospital, medical and miscellaneous benefits as an employee who has a compensable injury by accident, except that the period during which the employer shall be required to furnish medical attention, including reasonably necessary diagnostic services, shall begin fifteen days prior to the date of first communication of the diagnosis of the occupational disease to the employee. In the event of death the same funeral benefits shall be paid as in the case of death from a compensable accident.

Code 1950, § 65-46; 1966, c. 504; 1968, c. 660, § 65.1-49; 1984, c. 414; 1991, c. 355.

§ 65.2-404. What employer and carrier liability.

A. When an employee has an occupational disease that is covered by this title, the employer in whose employment he was last injuriously exposed to the hazards of the disease and the employer's insurance carrier, if any, at the time of the exposure, shall alone be liable therefor, without right to contribution from any prior employer or insurance carrier.

B. For the purposes of this section, "injurious exposure" means an exposure to the causative hazard of such disease which is reasonably calculated to bring on the disease in question. Exposure to the causative hazard of pneumoconiosis for ninety work shifts shall be conclusively presumed to constitute injurious exposure.

C. The operator of a coal mining business covered by this title who acquires the business or substantially all of the assets thereof is liable for, and must secure the payment of, all benefits which would have been payable by the prior operator under this section with respect to persons previously employed by such business if the acquisition had not occurred and the prior operator had continued to operate the business; and the prior operator of the business is not relieved of any liability under this section.

Code 1950, §§ 65-47, 65-49; 1952, c. 205; 1960, c. 297; 1962, c. 588; 1968, c. 660, §§ 65.1-50, 65.1-52; 1970, c. 470; 1972, cc. 612, 619; 1974, c. 201; 1975, cc. 27, 471; 1979, cc. 80, 201; 1982, c. 82; 1983, c. 469; 1984, c. 411; 1985, c. 191; 1989, c. 502; 1990, c. 417; 1991 c. 355.

§ 65.2-405. Notice to be given.

A. Within sixty days after a diagnosis of an occupational disease is first communicated to the employee, he, or someone in his behalf, shall give written notice thereof to the employer in accordance with § 65.2-600, but in no case shall the failure to give notice deprive the employee of his cause of action for an occupational disease, unless it be shown that such failure resulted in clear prejudice to the employer.

B. The statute of limitations provided under subdivision A 1 of § 65.2-406 shall be tolled until the employer gives the employee notice in substantially the following form:

NOTICE TO EMPLOYEE

IN THE EVENT A DIAGNOSIS OF COAL MINERS' PNEUMOCONIOSIS (INCLUDING BLACK LUNG, SILICOSIS, PNEUMOCONIOSIS, COAL WORKERS' PNEUMOCONIOSIS, ROCK DUST, DUST, DUST ON YOUR LUNGS OR TERMS OF SIMILAR MEANING) IS COMMUNICATED TO YOU, YOU MAY HAVE A WORKERS' COMPENSATION CLAIM. HOWEVER, SUCH CLAIM MAY BE LOST IF YOU DO NOT FILE IT WITH THE VIRGINIA WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION WITHIN THE TIME LIMIT PROVIDED BY LAW. YOU MAY FIND OUT WHAT TIME LIMIT APPLIES TO YOUR CLAIM BY CONTACTING THE WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION. THE FACT THAT YOU ARE TOLD THAT YOU HAVE COAL MINERS' PNEUMOCONIOSIS WHICH HAS NOT REACHED THE COMPENSABLE LEVEL UNDER THE GUIDELINES OF THE WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION OR THAT YOU ARE STILL ABLE TO WORK OR ARE WORKING DOES NOT STOP THE TIME FROM RUNNING OR OTHERWISE RELIEVE YOU OF YOUR DUTY TO FILE YOUR CLAIM WITH THE WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION.

Such notice shall also include the address and telephone number which the employee may use to contact the Commission.

The employer shall post and keep posted, conspicuously, the above notice in, on, or about the mine operations in places usually frequented by employees.

C. The provisions of subsection B shall apply only to claims arising on or after July 1, 1991.

Code 1950, § 65-48; 1952, c. 205; 1958, c. 457; 1968, c. 660, § 65.1-51; 1970, c. 470; 1972, c. 619; 1991, cc. 301, 355.

§ 65.2-406. Limitation upon claim; diseases covered by limitation.

A. The right to compensation under this chapter shall be forever barred unless a claim is filed with the Commission within one of the following time periods:

1. For coal miners' pneumoconiosis, three years after a diagnosis of the disease, as category 1/0 or greater as classified under the current International Labour Office Classification of Radiographs of the Pneumoconiosis, is first communicated to the employee or the legal representative of his estate or within five years from the date of the last injurious exposure in employment, whichever first occurs;

2. For byssinosis, two years after a diagnosis of the disease is first communicated to the employee or within seven years from the date of the last injurious exposure in employment, whichever first occurs;

3. For asbestosis, two years after a diagnosis of the disease is first communicated to the employee;

4. For symptomatic or asymptomatic infection with human immunodeficiency virus including acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, two years after a positive test for infection with human immunodeficiency virus;

5. For diseases directly attributable to the rescue and relief efforts at the Pentagon following the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, two years after a diagnosis of the disease is first communicated to the employee; or

6. For all other occupational diseases, two years after a diagnosis of the disease is first communicated to the employee or within five years from the date of the last injurious exposure in employment, whichever first occurs.

B. If death results from an occupational disease within any of such periods, the right to compensation under this chapter shall be barred, unless a claim therefor is filed with the Commission within three years after such death. The limitations imposed by this section as amended shall be applicable to occupational diseases contracted before and after July 1, 1962, and § 65.2-601 shall not apply to pneumoconiosis. The limitation on time of filing will cover all occupational diseases except:

1. Cataract of the eyes due to exposure to the heat and glare of molten glass or to radiant rays such as infrared;

2. Epitheliomatous cancer or ulceration of the skin or of the corneal surface of the eye due to pitch, tar, soot, bitumen, anthracene, paraffin, mineral oil, or their compounds, products or residues;

3. Radium disability or disability due to exposure to radioactive substances and X-rays;

4. Ulceration due to chrome compound or to caustic chemical acids or alkalies and undulant fever caused by the industrial slaughtering and processing of livestock and handling of hides;

5. Mesothelioma due to exposure to asbestos; and

6. Angiosarcoma of the liver due to vinyl chloride exposure.

C. When a claim is made for benefits for a change of condition in an occupational disease, such as advance from one stage or category to another, a claim for change in condition must be filed with the Commission within three years from the date for which compensation was last paid for an earlier stage of the disease, except that a claim for benefits for a change in condition in asbestosis must be filed within two years from the date when diagnosis of the advanced stage is first communicated to the employee and no claim for benefits for an advanced stage of asbestosis shall be denied on the ground that there has been no subsequent accident. For a first or an advanced stage of asbestosis or mesothelioma, if the employee is still employed in the employment in which he was injuriously exposed, the weekly compensation rate shall be based upon the employee's weekly wage as of the date of communication of the first or advanced stage of the disease, as the case may be. If the employee is unemployed, or employed in another employment, the weekly compensation rate shall be based upon the average weekly wage of a person of the same or similar grade and character in the same class of employment in which the employee was injuriously exposed and preferably in the same locality or community on the date of communication to the employee of the advanced stage of the disease or mesothelioma. The weekly compensation rates herein provided shall be subject to the same maximums and minimums as provided in § 65.2-500.

Code 1950, § 65-49; 1952, c. 205; 1960, c. 297; 1962, c. 588; 1968, c. 660, § 65.1-52; 1970, c. 470; 1972, c. 612; 1974, c. 201; 1975, cc. 27, 471; 1979, cc. 80, 201; 1982, c. 82; 1983, c. 469; 1984, c. 411; 1985, c. 191; 1989, c. 502; 1990, c. 417; 1991, c. 355; 1992, c. 475; 1995, c. 324; 2005, c. 433; 2011, c. 513.

§ 65.2-407. Waiver.

A. When an employee or prospective employee, though not incapacitated for work, is found to be affected by, or susceptible to, a specific occupational disease he may, subject to the approval of the Commission, be permitted to waive in writing compensation for any aggravation of his condition that may result from his working or continuing to work in the same or similar occupation for the same employer.

B. The Commission shall approve a waiver for coal worker's pneumoconiosis and silicosis only when presented with X-ray evidence from a physician qualified in the opinion of the Commission to make the determination and which demonstrates a positive diagnosis of the pneumoconiosis or the existence of a lung condition which makes the employee or prospective employee significantly more susceptible to the pneumoconiosis.

C. In considering approval of a waiver, the Commission may supply any medical evidence to a disinterested physician for his opinion as to whether the employee is affected by the disease or has the preexisting condition.

Code 1950, § 65-50; 1968, c. 660, § 65.1-53; 1970, c. 517; 1979, c. 201; 1991, c. 355.