Workers deserve safe conditions. Unfortunately, job-related accidents remain a serious issue throughout the country. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that nearly 900,000 American workers are forced to miss time due to a job-related injury or illness each year. If you are hurt on the job, you need to know your legal rights.
This raises an important question: How do you know if you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits? The answer depends on several different factors. In this article, our Seattle work injury attorneys answer the question by explaining the key things to know if you are trying to figure out whether or not you have a workers’ compensation claim in Washington.
Know the Basics: When You Qualify for Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Washington
Is workers’ compensation insurance coverage mandatory?
Yes. Washington State requires employers across industries to provide no-fault workers’ compensation coverage to their employees. An employer can pay into the Washington State Fund or obtain self-insurance. All workers in the State of Washington are entitled to workers’ compensation insurance regardless of part-time or full-time status, length of employment, immigration status, or the employer’s compliance in paying into the fund.
What type of injury or conditions are covered under worker’s compensation?
Workers are entitled to benefits when they suffer a work-related injury or an occupational disease, regardless of fault of the employer or a third party in producing the injury or occupational disease.
What is a work-related injury?
An injury is a sudden happening that produces injury. To have a valid claim for a work-related injury, the injury must have occurred while the employee was “acting in the course of employment.” It does not necessarily have to occur on your employer’s premises to be covered by workers’ compensation. If you have any doubt as to whether you have a valid work-injury claim, you should contact a Washington state workers’ compensation lawyer immediately for a comprehensive case evaluation.
What is an occupational disease?
An occupational disease is a disease or infection that arises “naturally and proximately” out of employment. Common examples are chemical exposures or physical conditions arising due to overuse and repetitive strain in performing work-related duties. In order to have a valid claim, the disease must have arisen as a natural consequence of your work conditions, and the disease must have arisen because of your work conditions. If you have any doubt as to whether you have a valid occupational disease claim, you should contact a Washington state workers’ compensation lawyer immediately for a comprehensive case evaluation.
What if I had a pre-existing condition?
The law recognizes that not all workers are in perfect health before a work-injury or development of an occupational disease. Workers are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for any condition that was asymptomatic or latent but ‘lit up’ by a work injury or occupational exposure. Workers are also entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for any pre-existing condition that was symptomatic but aggravated by a work injury or occupational exposure. If you have any doubt as to whether you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits due to a pre-existing condition, whether asymptomatic or symptomatic, you should contact a Washington state workers’ compensation lawyer immediately for a comprehensive case evaluation.
When must I file a claim with the Department of Labor & Industries?
Workers should file a claim with the Department of Labor & Industries as soon as possible after any possible work-related injury or occupational disease. It is the responsibility of the worker to make sure that a claim is filed with the Department or the self-insured employer. There are strict deadlines that can prevent an otherwise valid claim from being accepted, which would result in no benefits to the injured worker. Claims for work injuries must be filed within one year of the injury, and claims for occupational diseases must be filed within two years of receiving written notice by a physician or nurse practitioner that a worker’s disease or condition was caused, at least in part, by their employment.
The Bottom Line: Workers’ compensation claims can be complex, and there is a lot of gray area in the above requirements. If you were injured or suffered an occupational disease/condition while working on behalf of your employer in Washington state, you should file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits as soon as possible. If you have any doubt about your entitlement to benefits, a Seattle workers’ compensation attorney can review your case and help you determine your rights. You do not have to navigate the process alone.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in Washington
At The Walthew Law Firm, our Seattle workers’ compensation attorneys are proud to provide solutions-driven legal guidance and support to the hard-working people of Washington. If you want to know whether or not you have a viable workers’ compensation claim, we are more than happy to help. Contact our law firm now for your free, no obligation case review. We represent injured workers throughout Western Washington, including Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue, and Everett.