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COVID-19 and L&I Claims

The New Rule About Coronavirus

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 affect.

COVID-19 is an Occupational Disease

L&I claims are either an injury or an occupational disease. Covid-19 is an occupational disease and as such the usual difficult proof requirements of occupational disease law still apply to all workers.

  • There will be claim allowance only if you meet the normal yet often very difficult occupational disease requirements.
  • The condition or disease must arise naturally and proximately out of employment. It must be a natural consequence of the distinctive conditions of employment.
  • Conditions common to all employment are not covered
  • Conditions coincidental to employment are not covered.

Will COVID-19 be allowed as a work-related condition?

Yes, under certain circumstances. For example, claims from health care providers and first responders involving COVID-19 will likely be allowed. Other claims from occupations that meet certain criteria for exposure will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

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. Time will tell. Meanwhile file your claim if you have one, and protest a denial if that happens.

When will a COVID-19 claim likely be denied?

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 be denied.

See the news release from Governor Jay Inslee from March 5, 2020:  Workers’ Compensation Coverage and COVID-19: Department Policy

Can I sue my employer if I contract COVID -19 at work?

If your Covid-19 claim is allowed you cannot sue your employer. He has immunity under RCW 51.24.020. The usual exception to this would be intentional injury.

If your Covid-19 claim is disallowed because it is not an occupational disease, then maybe you can sue your employer. Talk to a lawyer about this.

Can I sue my living facility or other organization if I contract COVID -19 there?

Yes. Get legal advice about how to proceed.

Want More L&I Information?

Center for Disease Control –

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services –


The World Health Organization –

Family Medical Leave – FMLA 

Things You Need To Know About L&I Claims

L&I Claims are Either an Injury or an Occupational Disease

How to Contact Us:

Who Is The Sharpe Law Firm?

Telephone – Call for information or a free strategy session – 206-343-1988

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