An occupation disease is an infection or disease that arises naturally and proximately out of employment. RCW 51.08.140.
The occupational disease statute of limitations specifies that an occupational disease claim must be filed within two years.
When does the two years begin to run? It starts the day a physician or a nurse practitioner gives written notice to the worker of:
a) the existence of the disease, and
b) that a claim for disability benefits may be filed.
See the occupational disease statute of limitations (SOL) for exact details; RCW 51.28.055.
Many persons actually have a lifetime or longer to file their occupational disease claims, because seldom does the two year SOL begin to run. Occupational diseases can be obvious, but most, due to the long latency period, are difficult or nearly impossible to spot. Many valid occupational disease claims are never filed because the connection between work and disease is not recognized or because many persons just don’t know their rights.
Even after death a spouse can still file an occupational disease claim for the deceased.
Many occupational diseases are unrecognized as such and consequently not fully appreciated or despised for the killers and cripplers that they are.
Examples of occupational diseases include:
Repetitive trauma is a series of little traumas over time that cause physical problems to the body because of their cumulative effect. They are a hybrid type of claim that could be both or either an injury or an occupational disease. An example of repetitive trauma is a jack hammer operator who wears out his hands and arms, a little bit everyday over the course of time. Each day causes a minor problem, but over time it becomes a major problem, and an L&I claim.
Too much is currently made of the distinction between Occupational Disease and Injury. Injured workers unfairly loose time, money, and resources when they are required to argue and prove the legal differences between different types of job related insults to their body. Sometimes the procedural and proof difficulties even cause these workers to lose their claims. This should not happen.
If you are caught between a rock and a hard spot where various employers and claims managers are pointing at each other and arguing injury vs occupational disease – Get legal help.