The Industrial Insurance Act of Washington provides coverage for occupational disease when an employee, acting in the scope of employment contracts a disease or infection.
The term “occupational disease” is defined by RCW 51.08.140 as “such disease or infection as arises naturally and proximately out of employment.” Arthritis, lung disease, hearing loss, and carpal tunnel syndrome are common conditions allowed as occupational diseases. Carpenters wear out their hip, knee and ankle joints. Millwrights wear out their shoulder joints and knees. Electricians wear out their wrists and thumbs. Laborers wear out their feet and spines. Clerk-typists develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
The disease or infection must arise “naturally and proximately” out of employment. Injured workers must show that their particular work conditions more probably than not caused the disease, rather than the disease being caused by everyday life, genetics or old age.
The requirement that the occupation be the “proximate cause” of the disease is addressed by a “but for” test. A disease is proximately caused by employment conditions when “there [is] no intervening independent and sufficient cause for the disease, so that the disease would not have been contracted but for the condition existing in the ... employment.” The doctor does not have to rule out other causes. If your profession has a higher rate or incidence of a medical problem than the population in general, your doctor can find that work caused the problem.
If you believe you have an illness or condition caused by your employment, we encourage you to contact the Seattle occupational disease attorneys of Kinney Law Group to schedule a consultation to discuss your case. Our attorneys handle cases throughout Eastern and Western Washington. We look forward to answering your questions and protecting your interests.
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