Break your arm on the job and you have an L&I injury claim. Work in a mill, breath cedar dust, get asthma, and you have an L&I occupational disease. It makes a difference
Covid-19 is an occupational disease for some occupations, but not others. The usual difficult proof requirements of occupational disease law apply to all workers, including those with Covid-19.
The result then, is that you can contract Covid-19 on the job, and you may or may not have a valid L&I claim. The occupational disease criteria are:
Yes, under certain circumstances. For example, claims from health care providers and first responders involving COVID-19 will likely be allowed. Covid-19 arises naturally and proximately out of their employment. Other claims from occupations that meet certain criteria for exposure, as indicated above, will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Where an employer requires working in close proximity, there arises an interesting question whether this unsafe work condition is actually a distinctive condition of employment.
The line between occupational disease allowance and denial is not bright. It will be interesting to see L&I’s response to these claims. It may be that if you are required to work with the public your claim will be looked upon more favorably than if you work in a closed office or from home. Meanwhile, if you contract COVID-19 on the job then file your claim.
In March of 2020, the director of L&I indicated there would be additional coverage for first responders who get COVID – 19 . The additional coronavirus coverage is for quarantined health care workers and first responder’s only. And then only while they are in quarantine by a public health official or physician. This is very narrow coverage. Said another way, this new rule does almost nothing. All the old rules are still in effect.
In many cases, exposure and/or contraction of COVID-19 is not considered to be an allowable, work-related condition.
When the contraction of COVID-19 is incidental to the workplace or common to all employment (such as an office worker who contracts the condition from a fellow employee), a claim for exposure to and contraction of the disease will likely be denied.
See the news release from Governor Jay Inslee from March 5, 2020: Workers’ Compensation Coverage and COVID-19: Department Policy
If your Covid-19 claim is allowed you cannot sue your employer. He has immunity under RCW 51.24.020. The rare exception to this would be intentional injury.
If your Covid-19 claim is disallowed because it is not an occupational disease, then appeal the denial and if your injuries are serious enough that winning your claim is important, try to prove your occupational disease claim. Maybe you can successfully sue your employer, maybe not. Talk to a lawyer about this.
Yes. Get legal advice about how to proceed.
L&I needs to be notified. File a death benefits claim with L&I. These are good benefits. See Pensions for details. Contact an L&I attorney. Don’t wait – there is a time deadline.
Center for Disease Control – www.cdc.gov
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services – www.flu.gov
OSHA – www.osha.gov
The World Health Organization – www.who.int
Family Medical Leave – FMLA
Sharpe Law Firm – L&I Claims are Either an Injury or an Occupational Disease
Telephone – Call for information or a free strategy session – 206-343-1988