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Washington Workers’ Compensation: Understanding Occupational Disease Claims

Every employee in Washington deserves safe and fair working conditions. Unfortunately, far too many Washington workers suffer disabling injuries or medical conditions related to their employment. Through workers’ compensation, injured workers are entitled to financial benefits, including medical treatment and time loss benefits. Under Washington state law, workers’ compensation claims fit into one of two broad categories:

  1. Work Injuries: A work injury must occur in a sudden, tangible accident that is of a traumatic nature. Injuries occur at a specific point in time traceable to a specific event.
  2. Occupational Diseases: An occupational disease is a medical condition that develops over time and that, while related to one’s employment, is not connected to any particular accident or traumatic event.

If you have developed an occupational disease, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits through the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). As these cases are notoriously complex, injured workers should be ready to seek assistance from a dedicated Seattle workers’ compensation lawyer who has considerable experience handling occupational disease claims.

What is an Occupational Disease?

Under Washington law (RCW 51.08.140), an occupational disease is defined as a disease or infection that arises naturally and proximately out of a worker’s employment. In practice, occupational diseases are wide ranging. Some of the most common examples include:

  • Repetitive injuries resulting in conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff tears, hip, knee and joint injuries;
  • Back conditions due to overuse;
  • Lung disease;
  • Cancer; and
  • Hearing loss.

You Have Two Years to File an Occupational Disease Claim (With a Caveat)

In Washington’s statute of limitations for occupational diseases claims (RCW 51.28.055), workers have two years to file a claim. In effect, the two year statute of limitations rarely rules out a claim as the statute does not begin to run until the worker received written notice from a doctor or other medical professional as to the existence of a disease and notice that the worker has the right to file a claim for benefits.

Do not go up against employers and insurers alone. Injured workers should always be ready to seek professional legal representation. At The Walthew Law Firm, our Washington workers’ compensation attorneys have a comprehensive understanding of the complex rules and regulations that govern occupational disease claims.

For more than 90 years, we have been advocating aggressively for the legal rights and financial interest of injured workers. If you or a loved one developed an occupational disease, please do not hesitate to call us 206-203-9246 to schedule a free, no obligation review of your case.

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