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What Is the Difference Between an Industrial Injury and an Occupational Disease?

Posted by Foster Law on October 16, 2014

Learn the difference between industrial injuries and occupational diseases in workers’ compensation claims.

Washington State workers' compensation laws protect workers who sustain injuries or illnesses in the course of employment. Through the Washington workers' compensation system, injured workers can get payments to cover medical expenses, partial compensation for lost wages, and payments for partial or total disabilities. Additional benefits, such as vocational counseling, may also be available.

Defining Industrial Injury

Under Washington law, an industrial injury is considered to be a sudden or tangible happening of a traumatic nature with an immediate or prompt result. One of the most common types of industrial injuries is a fall at work. Most injuries cause bumps, bruises, lacerations, etc. Industrial injuries also include musculoskeletal conditions caused by normal bodily movement during the course of employment.

The presence of a pre-existing condition doesn't disqualify a worker from receiving workers' compensation benefits. Moreover, an injury doesn't necessarily need to be caused by a work-related activity. The injury must occur in the course of one's work but it does not need to arise out of the particular duties a worker is paid to perform.

What Is an Occupational Disease?

Occupational diseases are conditions that develop over time. Occupational diseases are contracted in the course of employment and are primarily the result of risk factors posed by work activity. The nature of the job puts an employee at risk of contracting the disease. Examples of occupational diseases include carpal tunnel syndrome and asbestos lung disease. In order to successfully file a workers' compensation claim for an occupational disease in Washington State, you must establish that the condition arose naturally out of your duties at work.

A workers' compensation claim can be made for an injury sustained in the course of employment, regardless of the worker's physical condition when the injury occurred. If an occupational disease makes a pre-existing physical condition or disability worse, then the injured worker is entitled to receive workers' compensation benefits.

Diseases that can be contracted from conditions present in all employment or non-employment settings do not qualify for workers' compensation benefits. For example, degenerative disc disease caused by many years of sitting at work does not qualify because sitting is an activity that is common in all employment and non-employment situations. Another condition common to everyday life that doesn't qualify for workers' compensation benefits is mental stress. Only mental stress that results from a specific incident can qualify you for workers' compensation benefits.

Time Limits for Filing an Occupational Disease or Industrial Injury Claim

An occupational disease workers' compensation claim must be filed within two years of when your doctor advises you in writing that your work caused your disease and that you should file a workers' compensation claim. An industrial injury workers' compensation claim must be filed within one year of the injury.

Protect Your Rights with the Help of a Seattle Workers' Compensation Attorney

Have you been injured or become ill in the course of employment? Workers' compensation will cover your medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, and lost wages. To maximize your chances of getting these benefits, consider hiring an attorney to help you file your claim. Foster Law, P.C. is a workers' compensation lawyer in Seattle with significant experience representing employees in Washington State who have suffered from workplace injuries and occupational diseases. Call 206-682-3436 to schedule a free consultation with us.

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