COVID-19 is a pandemic and has found its way into our job sites across Washington. For those of you who have become infected with COVID-19 while on the job, the workers’ compensation system can provide a remedy. However, before you file a claim, you should know some basic information. This page has been created to give you the information you need to decide whether to file an L&I claim and how to file a claim if you believe you have been exposed to COVID-19 on the job.
Here is a list of the most common questions and the answers you should know.
1. What do I do if I have been exposed to the Coronavirus at work?
If you believe you have been exposed to the Coronavirus at work, you have the right to file an L&I claim form.
You should immediately report the exposure to your employer to make a record of the incident. This report serves two important purposes:
- It puts your employer on notice of the potential spreading of the virus so that they can take immediate steps to limit further exposures and take other necessary health and safety measures.
- It creates a record that you may have been exposed at a specific time, place and location. This record will be helpful to your L&I claim if you do test positive for COVID-19.
Additionally, if you believe you have been exposed, the Washington State Department of Health says you should take these medically prudent steps.
2. How do I file a claim?
You can file your L&I claim online: Click here
Filing a claim is easy. L&I has created “FileFast”, on an online reporting system that you can complete from your PC or smart device. Please make sure that the information you provide is accurate and complete. Double-check your answers before you submit your claim form.
You can also file by phone at 1-877-561-FILE (3453)
Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
3. Should I see a doctor and can my employer require me to go to their doctor?
With COVID-19, the State is recommending that you call your doctor first and let the provider decide whether to be seen by a health care professional in person, or whether you should self-isolate at home.
If you are told by a medical professional to be evaluated and/or tested, then understand that you have the right to choose your doctor and also to decide who, if anyone, you want to accompany you to the doctor.
With COVID-19, self-isolation and distancing is the recommended protocol. However, be aware that you have the right to decline to have the company nurse or any employer representative accompany you to the hospital, doctor, or any other medical visit. Regardless, your employer can’t discriminate or retaliate against you for filing a claim or choosing to see or call your own provider.
4. What should my employer do once my claim is filed?
Once you report your exposure and/or diagnosis of COVID-19, your employer should take immediate steps consistent with the recommendations from the Washington Dept of Health.
With regard to your L&I claim, once you file an L&I claim form, your employer must complete and file the employer’s report of accident.
5. What should my doctor do if I want to file a claim?
You need to tell your provider that you have been exposed to COVID-19 on the job. After discussing your condition, your doctor should complete the “Medical Providers Report of Accident”. Your provider will not complete this paperwork unless you make them aware that this is an L&I claim and you believe you have been exposed to COVID-19 at work. It is important that the information you give your provider is consistent with the information provided to your employer and the information used to complete your L&I claim form. Any inconsistencies can be used by the Dept of L&I to deny your claim.
6. Can my employer retaliate against me for filing a claim?
Your employer may not discriminate or retaliate against you for filing a claim or seeking benefits. If your employer has discouraged you from filing a claim, you may file a Workers’ Compensation Claims Suppression Complaint Form (F262‑024‑000).
7. How long do I have to file a claim?
You should file an L&I claim as soon as you believe you have been exposed to the coronavirus or tested positive for COVID-19, depending on which comes first. Under the law, you must file a claim within 1 year of injury OR if you believe you have been repetitively exposed on the job, you have 1 year from the date your doctor informs you in writing that you have a claim. However, there is no reason to wait to file a claim. If you are sick, you may need benefits like payment of medical bills and lost wages if you miss work. If you delay filing, the delay may be used as a basis to deny your claim or used by your employer to challenge the validity of your claim. Therefore, immediately filing a claim is the best practice.
8. What kinds of benefits might I be entitled to receive?
Under the Industrial Insurance Act, an injured worker may be entitled to a number of possible benefits including lost wages, allowance of medical care and payment of reasonable and necessary medical bills. Other benefits may include a permanent partial disability award and permanent disability benefits if you are permanently disabled or killed.
9. Can I file a claim if I don’t know how I got COVID-19?
The short answer is “yes”. However, if you do not know the source, time and/or place of the exposure, the Department of L&I may deny your COVID-19 L&I claim. The facts of your case may be unique and require an individual legal analysis. You can call PalaceLaw for a free case analysis if you need advice about your claim.
10. What if my claim is denied?
If you have filed a claim and it has been denied, you have 60 days from the date you received the denial order to submit a protest to the Department of Labor and Industries. Your protest should include:
- Your name, the date of the L&I order you are protesting and your claim number;
- A request that the claims manager reconsider the denial order; and
- A very brief reason why you disagree with the L&I order denying your claim.
Then you can send your letter of protest, either online through the Claim & Account Center, or by mail to:
Department of Labor & Industries
P.O. Box 44291
Olympia, WA 98504-4291
If your protest is timely, L&I will issue another decision that modifies, reverses or reaffirms the original decision. If you disagree with the decision, you may appeal to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals (the BIIA). An appeal can be expensive and take up to 6 months or more.
COVID-19 is changing the way we live our lives, how we interact with others and how and where we work. In these uncertain and changing times, Palace Law remains dedicated to serving the needs of our community. For 25 years we have offered free consultations to injured workers in need. You can call us for free advice and be guaranteed to talk to a legal professional immediately when you call during regular hours. If you have been injured and need legal help, I hope you take us up on this offer. Until then, please be safe and look out for each other, especially at work.
Listen to Patrick Palace discuss the coronavirus on KISW
Coronavirus: How to File an L&I Claim
Coronavirus: Represent You From Your Home