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OCCUPATIONAL DISEASES: What are they and when should you file a claim?

Posted by Foster Law on June 13, 2013

In the State of Washington, claims may arise in one of two ways: (1) because of an industrial injury or (2) because of the development of an occupational disease. Industrial injuries are often easy to identify because they are the result of a sudden and tangible event that produces the injury. Occupational diseases, on the other hand, may be much more difficult to recognize because they often develop over time.

An occupational disease is defined as “such disease or infection as arises naturally and proximately out of employment.” RCW 52.08.140. For a claim for occupational disease to be allowed, an injured worker must establish that his or her medical condition is a natural consequence of the distinctive conditions of his or her employment. The medical condition (or aggravation thereof) must be proximately caused by the distinctive work conditions as supported by medical evidence. The medical condition need not be either peculiar to or inherent in the particular employment, nor does it have to result from a greater or increased risk of the employment. The injured worker must show only that employment conditions more-probably-than-not caused the medical condition (or aggravation) than conditions in everyday life or all employment in general. The test is not whether most workers of reasonably good health would suffer a disabling condition under the same employment conditions, but rather whether the individual worker with his or her pre-existing frailties or bodily infirmities suffered the condition or aggravation of the condition.

An injured worker's medical provider is instrumental in identifying whether an occupational disease has developed. In the state of Washington, the applicable statute, RCW 51.28.055 (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?Cite=51.28.055) provides that, for a claim filed for occupational disease to be considered valid and compensable, it must be filed within two years following the date the worker is notified in writing by a physician or a licensed advanced registered nurse practitioner: (a) of the existence of his or her occupational disease, and (b) that a claim for benefits may be filed. This written notice must also contain a statement that the worker has two years from the date of the notice to file a claim. If you feel that you have an occupational disease, it is important for you to make an appointment with your medical provider. Preferably, select a medical provider who is part of the Medical Provider Network (MPN) and actively treats injured workers. These providers should have applications for benefits on hand and can assist you with filing the claim if the provider believes you have developed an occupational disease. Make sure that you give your medical provider a detailed explanation of your work history and the distinctive requirements or physical demands of your job including any activity that is repetitive in nature. The more details you provide about your work environment and your physical job requirements, the better your medical provider can accurately assess whether you have developed an occupational disease. 

At Foster Law, P.C. we are expert, we are fierce, and we are compassionate. Our team offers decades of experience to helping literally thousands of injured workers obtain the benefits that are so crucial to maintaining their welfare and that of their families. If you have any questions or concerns about occupational disease claims, we invite you to contact us. Initial consultations are complimentary. Don't leave your workers' compensation claim to chance; consult with experts.

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