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When a work injury lasts a lifetime

Cuts and scrapes heal with time. But not every injury and illness resolves itself as quickly as these minor examples. When employees become victims of workplace accidents, the resulting damage can affect them for the rest of their lives.

The New York Times recently profiled the story of a woman who worked in a furniture factory for approximately five years. She was unaware that the yellow haze that defined the air inside the plant was produced as a result of toxic fumes from the furniture glue she came in contact with each day. Her exposure resulted in severely damaged nerve endings and tissue damage that causes her severe pain and an inability to work and live normally. Her medical care costs and lost wages have devastated her both emotionally and financially.

Too often workplace accident stories grab the attention of the public in their immediate aftermath and quickly fade away. However, many of the injuries and occupational illnesses borne from these accidents and toxic exposure never fade for the victims.

Like brain, spinal cord and other catastrophic injuries resulting from car accidents or medical malpractice, workplace injuries often require intensive medical care for the remainder of a patient's life. As a result, it is critical that workers hold negligent employers accountable for these injuries and illnesses. Senses of loyalty, compassion and forgiveness are often values worth pursuing. But not at the expense of one's medical care. Holding employers accountable can help injured and ill workers pay for the care they will need now and into the future.

Source: The New York Times, "As OSHA Emphasizes Safety, Long-Term Health Risks Fester," Ian Urbina, Mar. 30, 2013

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