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Occupational Illness

An occupational illness can be any chronic disease or condition that results from an individual’s job or work-related activities. Generally, occupational illnesses are identified when a particular group of workers suffers a medical condition at a higher rate than the general population.

The laws and regulations of the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) system presume that certain medical conditions are caused by one’s work environment and activities, placing the burden of proof on the employer or insurer if they seek to demonstrate that the illness arose from another cause outside the workplace.


Some Examples Of Occupational Illness Include:

  • Asbestosis: asbestos miners and those who work with friable asbestos insulation
  • Black lung: otherwise known as coal miner’s pneumoconiosis
  • Byssinosis: among cotton textile workers
  • Occupational asthma: occurs when an individual is exposed to and reacts to an asthma trigger in the workplace. Triggers are external factors or conditions in one’s own body that cause asthma to arise or worsen. Workers who experience a high incidence of occupational asthma include healthcare workers, construction workers, food preparation and processing or food service employees, metal workers, factory workers, agricultural workers, electronics workers, carpet makers, janitors and cleaning staff, painters, and textile workers.
  • Skin diseases: eczema, urticaria, sunburn, and skin cancer; high-risk occupations include hairdressing, healthcare, printing, motor vehicle repair, construction, and many others.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS): common among workers whose jobs involve repetitive motions with the hands and wrists (common examples include workers in information technology and the poultry industry).
  • Lead poisoning: affects workers in industries that previously or currently process or use lead or lead compounds.
  • Latent injury claims: can involve substances like asbestos, mold, silica, carbon monoxide, lead paint, benzene, various chemicals, carcinogens, and EPA-regulated substances.

L&I Assessment Of Occupational Illness

One of the first factors that L&I evaluates in an occupational illness claim is the age or duration of a worker’s medical condition. Occupational illness claims are quite different from more straightforward work injuries that can be traced to a particular moment in time (for example, a wrist fracture that occurred one day or one week ago). An occupational illness may have begun to develop ten or twenty years earlier while an individual worked in a completely different industry. Many of these medical conditions are latent, meaning the worker does not know precisely when he or she began to suffer the effects of the disease, which worsens progressively over a period of time. Learn more about the differences between occupational illness and industrial disease.

A wide spectrum of factors can go into an occupational illness claim, including employment history, the length of time worked at particular jobs, the work conditions at each place of employment, when the illness began to develop, etc. In addition, pinpointing the moment in time when an occupational illness arose twenty or thirty years earlier can be fraught with speculation.

It is also important to note that occupational illness claims must be received within two years from the date that your doctor notifies you in writing that your injury is work-related.

For help recovering the maximum L&I benefits from your occupational illness claim with L&I, call the legal team at Emery | Reddy, PLLC.

Our Seattle L&I Attorneys Will Help You Recover:

  • Medical benefits: L&I medical benefits will cover all medical costs associated with your claim. This can include doctor appointments, treatments, surgeries, occupational therapy, and prescription medications.
  • Time-loss and wage replacement: If you are approved for time-loss benefits, you may receive compensation for the lost wages and vocational rehabilitation.
  • Damages for pain and suffering: L&I award amounts vary widely and typically fall into three categories:
  1. 1. L&I Disability Pensions: A life-long benefit awarded to injured workers who will never be able to return to any gainful employment due to a severe or life-threatening injury.
  2. 2. Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) awards: A one-time sum paid to injured workers when their L&I claim is closed. The worker can re-enter the workforce following a PPD award.
  3. 3. Claim Resolution Settlement Agreement (CRSA): An L&I settlement option where all parties agree to close an injury claim for a specified amount. When agreeing to this settlement type, the injured worker exchanges all future benefits, except medical, for the payment.

We understand that many families depend on the income of an injured worker, and our mental health and L&I lawyers are dedicated to winning the benefits and compensation to which you are entitled by law. Our practice was founded on a commitment to advocating for workers’ rights, and we are proud of our record protecting the injured and disabled. Call us today to learn how Emery | Reddy can help you with your occupational illness L&I claim.

Your L&I Claim Is Worth More If You Also Have An Employment Law Claim

A significant number of L&I workers’ compensation claims often involve additional legal claims such as employment law or third-party claims. Many people file their claims without seeking representation from an L&I attorney and thus never discover that, in addition to their L&I claim, they may be missing out on the ability to file an employment law claim or a third-party claim. Pursuing additional legal action has the potential to significantly increase a claim’s overall compensation.

What Is An Employment Law Claim?

Many injured workers find that their employer has taken, or plans to take, adverse action against them because they filed an L&I claim or they are out of work. You can file a lawsuit against your employer for several reasons, including retaliation, wrongful termination, disability discrimination, or unpaid wages. An L&I attorney who is experienced in both L&I workers’ compensation law and employment law can help you with your L&I claim while simultaneously filing a federal or state law claim for the violation of workers’ rights by your employer.

What Is A Third-Party Claim?

A third-party claim is one in which someone other than your employer or co-worker is responsible for your injury. If you have been injured on the job due to someone else’s actions or negligence, you may be entitled to additional compensation through a third-party claim, which combines your L&I claim with a personal injury claim using the same facts.

Unlike workers’ compensation payments, there is no limit to the amount of compensation an injured worker may seek in third-party damages.

Who Is At Fault For A Workplace Injury?

L&I is a no-fault system, ensuring compensation for any workplace injury. However, if a third party is involved in causing the injury, you may be able to pursue legal action against them for additional compensation under third-party claims.

How Do I Know If I Have A Case?

The bottom line is that anyone who isn’t familiar with L&I claims should seek the input of experienced L&I attorneys who are.

After years of helping injured workers, Emery | Reddy has recovered hundreds of millions for our clients. Our team of L&I attorneys is experienced in litigating L&I claims, injury law claims, and employment violations. We understand how to leverage each claim in state (or federal) court and before the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals to maximize the value of all of your claims.

emery reddy attorney Karolina s. Arthur at her desk in the emery reddy offices

Emery | Reddy Can Help You With Your L&I Claim

Emery | Reddy, PLLC is the only law firm in Washington State that is equipped to provide comprehensive representation on your case from every angle. Our Seattle L&I attorneys thoroughly assess every case to determine if our clients have additional claims, and at times this can extend far beyond the underlying workers’ compensation claim.

If you have been injured in the workplace, call Emery | Reddy today to speak with our legal team for a free case review. Please remember to have your L&I claim number readily available.

Want More Information?

Claim Value

To determine the value of your L&I claim you first need to understand the different types of L&I settlements offered in Washington State.


The L&I workers’ compensation process is anything but straightforward. Find out the answers to your L&I workers’ comp questions today.

L&I—Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits to injured workers.

Meet The Team

The L&I attorneys at Emery | Reddy are passionate about helping workers with L&I claims and employment law issues. We Help Workers®: it’s our motto and it’s what drives us every day.

We know how L&I and big companies think, and we understand the tactics they use. Our labor and industries attorneys use that knowledge coupled with over two decades of experience to help our clients get access to the L&I benefits to which they are legally entitled and hold employers accountable when they break the law.

If you’re struggling with an L&I claim, injury, or legal issue at work, please call us and see how Emery | Reddy can help you today.

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Timothy W. Emery

emery reddy attorney patrick reddy headshot

Patrick B. Reddy

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Karolina S. Arthur

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Paul Cipriani, Jr.

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