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What You Need To Know About Workers’ Compensation and the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Washington State

April 27, 2022

Workers Comp and COVID-19

At Smith Duran Law, we are well aware of the dangers of COVID-19 and how it continues to impact health care and frontline workers across the state of Washington. We can help essential workers after they’ve contracted a contagious or infectious disease at work to secure their benefits in a workers’ compensation claim. Your employer may not allow you to file for benefits or the insurance company might deny payment. In either case, we will fight for your rights to secure financial benefits after you are infected by a deadly disease.

Our Legal Team Understands the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Process

When our workers’ comp lawyers take your case, they look into the specific circumstances of your exposure. In Washington State, workers’ comp is a no-fault system that does not necessarily point the finger at your employer. You are trying to recover your compensation from the state Department of Labor & Industries or your employer’s private insurance. However, the insurance is looking for any way it can avoid making payments on your coverage. In these circumstances, we will bolster your case with evidence that clearly demonstrates you were exposed at work and that the effects have been long-lasting

Can COVID-19 Ever be Allowed as a Work-Related Condition?

According to the Washington State Dept. of Labor & Industries, Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law 2 bills that grant presumptive workers’ compensation protections to health care and frontline workers during a public health emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The new laws mean that it will be presumed health care and frontline workers contracted a contagious or infectious disease at work when they file a workers’ compensation claim. Other claims that meet certain criteria for exposure will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

When to File a Claim

The Industrial Insurance Act allows for treatment of COVID-19 when work-related activity has resulted in probable exposure to the virus and certain criteria are met. Before a worker files a claim, they should consider if the following criteria are met:

  • Was there an increased risk or greater likelihood of contracting the condition due to your occupation?
  • If not for your job, would you have been exposed to the virus or contracted the condition?
  • Can you identify a specific source or event during the performance of your employment that resulted in exposure to the new coronavirus?

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 worker), a claim for exposure to and contraction of the disease will be denied.

Understanding Workers’ Comp Coverage

Workers’ compensation coverage is an insurance plan your employer must pay for throughout the year. The workers’ comp insurance provider receives claims when workers report their injuries, illnesses, or exposure to toxic substances. 

The insurance company can start paying medical expenses right away, and it will pay for your time-loss wages when you suffer a loss of income while recovering from a work injury or occupational illness. In Washington State, you are generally asked to quarantine at home for at least 5 days after your last contact with a person with COVID-19. Therefore, you will easily miss work and may be eligible to receive retroactive time-loss payments.

COVID-19 is a virulent disease that can cause permanent damage to your body and diminish your health dramatically. Workers’ comp can pay for all your medical expenses when you are exposed at work. In the unfortunate event that you cannot work at all, you will receive permanent total disability benefits. When someone dies due to an occupational disease, their family will receive death benefits including a payment to contribute toward the cost of the worker’s funeral and burial services. 

Our Washington State workers’ compensation lawyers understand how you should be compensated under these plans, and we will file suit if the insurance company acts in bad faith. 

We Help Health Care and Frontline Workers With COVID-19 Understand Their Compensation Options

When you speak to our Washington State workers’ comp lawyers, we will help you come to a better understanding of what you should receive. While we can petition the insurance company for the compensation that we believe you deserve, we also understand that Washington State COVID-19 rules are stringent.

Under rules published by the state, businesses that require their employers to appear in person for work must:

  • Maintain social distancing
  • Require staff to wear masks when close together
  • Provide face masks for employees
  • Provide sanitizing options for everyone at no cost
  • Enforce proper hand hygiene
  • Clean and disinfect consistently
  • Conduct temperature checks or other health checks every day
  • Never allow sick employees into work
  • Notify employees of potential exposure

At Smith Duran Law, we will uncover a breakdown in the system that caused your exposure. We will fight the insurance company so that they will pay your expenses, and we will take your employer to court if it maliciously exposes employees to COVID-19. Even though Washington State’s workers’ comp system does not assign fault, egregious cases like this warrant a lawsuit against the employer.

Questions About Workers’ Compensation Coverage and Coronavirus (COVID-19)

When Should I Report My Symptoms?

Report your symptoms to your employer right away. You do not go into the office and expose anyone else. Your employer should submit that report to the insurance company while you visit an approved physician, quarantine, or get tested.

When should I file a worker’s compensation claim for exposure or contraction of COVID-19?

According to an article released by the Washington State Dept. of Labor & Industries, workers exposed to COVID-19 must submit the appropriate accident report form before the insurer (L&I or the self-insured business) can pay for treatment or time-loss benefits. The same is true if the worker is unable to work during the quarantine period or is ill from the virus.

If the diagnosed condition on the original accident report form is contraction of COVID-19 and the criteria set forth by the Washington State Dept. of Labor & Industries are met, the claim will be allowed and treatment authorized. The same is true when a claim is filed for probable exposure, whether or not the worker actually contracted the illness.

Workers do not need to be examined by a physician for a COVID-19 exposure claim to be submitted when they are quarantined. L&I is handling medical documentation for these claims differently than other workers’ compensation claims. However, they do require a positive test to allow a claim for the disease when a worker has actually contracted the virus.

When Can I File a Lawsuit Over Workers’ Comp Claims?

The moment you believe your employer is not acting in good faith, you should contact us for assistance. If you believe the insurance company is acting in bad faith, we need to know about it. Do not wait until it is too late to file a claim and recover the compensation you need to survive.

  • Workers’ Compensation Lawyers

    The Department of Labor and Industries manages claims for injuries at work. You are entitled to money for lost wages, medical treatment, vocational retraining, loss of body function, and in some cases a pension.

  • Personal Injury Attorney

    If your injury was caused by someone other than a co‑worker, an auto accident, or defective equipment, you may be entitled to additional compensation. Our personal injury attorney in Tacoma will evaluate your case.

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