L&I Lawyers in Washington State
Workers’ compensation was introduced in America over a century ago with the intention of ensuring medical care and regular paychecks to workers who were injured on the job while also avoiding extended litigation—where the employee most always came out on the losing end. While the workers’ compensation program has certainly helped hundreds of thousands of workers who were injured on the job, it remains a somewhat controversial system. Employers tend to believe workers’ compensation premiums are almost prohibitively expensive, while workers who are injured on the job and must file for workers’ compensation benefits could find the process filled with complexities.
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Employers may even discourage employees injured on the job from filing a legitimate claim. Delays are common, and many workers on the lower end of the socio-economic scale may find they simply do not have the financial means to protest a system which leaves them injured and unable to support their families on the benefits provided. While every state in the U.S. has some form of workers’ compensation, the system does vary from state to state. Individual state laws determine which businesses must carry coverage, how much and how long they must pay an injured or ill employee, and what penalties are imposed if a company fails to comply. States also set time limits for each step of the workers’ compensation claim process, including:
- How long the employee has to report a job-related injury or illness;
- How long employers and insurers have to investigate, process and approve or deny a claim;
- How medical expenses will be covered;
- What type of wage benefits the employee will receive (temporary total disability, temporary partial disability, permanent partial disability or permanent total disability), and
- What death benefits and burial expenses will be paid to dependents of employees who die in a work-related accident.
At Palace Law, we can help you with a variety of workplace compensation claims related to:
- Slip and Fall Accidents
- A Construction-related Accident
- Welding Accident
- Wrongful Death
- Occupational Diseases
- Brain Injuries
- Ladder Accidents
- Scaffold Accidents
What Workers’ Compensation Benefits are Available in the State of Washington?
In the state of Washington, the program administrator for workers’ compensation is the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. Any employer with one or more employees must provide workers’ compensation coverage (with standard exceptions). Employers must cover all reasonable medical treatments related to workplace injuries. Although employees are allowed to choose their own doctor for a first visit, after that, the employer can require the employee to stay in-network.
Temporary total disability benefits are equal to 60-75 percent of the regular monthly wages, according to how many dependents the worker has, and what the current average weekly wage is in the state ($1,190 as of 2018). Workers must wait three days for benefits, then those benefits will be paid until the worker is able to return to work or has reached “maximum medical improvement.”
Temporary partial disability benefits in the state of Washington are equal to 80 percent of the employee’s pre-injury wages, minus post-injury wages. Permanent partial disability benefits will vary, according to the severity of the injury (as rated by a qualified doctor). Permanent and totally disabled workers are eligible for a monthly pension, with the amount being dependent on pre-injury wages, the average state wages at the time of your injury, marital status, number of dependent children, Social Security benefits and health-care benefits. Survivors may also receive a monthly pension at 120 percent of the statewide average wage for the year prior to the award. Domestic partners and spouses are also eligible for a one-time immediate death and burial benefit.
How Long Do I Have to File My Washington Workers’ Compensation Claim?
While you should always file your workers’ compensation claim as quickly as possible, under Washington law you have one year from the date of your work injury to file a claim with Loss and Injury or your self-insured employer and two years from the date of a doctor’s diagnosis for an occupational disease claim to file for workers’ compensation.
What are the Exceptions for Washington Employers Regarding Workers’ Compensation?
While most businesses in Washington—even with one employee—must carry workers’ compensation, there are some narrow exceptions, including:
- Private homes which employ individuals to garden, do maintenance work or make repairs;
- Individuals who work in return for assistance from a religious or charitable organization;
- Individuals who are not regular employees of the business, such as a person hired to perform a personal errand or chore which benefits the owner of the business, but not the business;
- Individuals who perform domestic work in private homes—so long as two or more workers are not employed for more than 40 hours per week;
- Some entertainers and musicians;
- Employees who are covered under federal law, or
- A child, under the age of 18 who is employed by parents for agricultural work on a farm.
What is the Procedure Following an On-the-Job Accident in Washington?
Most human resource departments will have very specific procedures you are required to follow after an on-the-job injury. If you have an employee handbook, you should follow the guidelines listed. Even if you only suffer a minor slip and fall and do not believe your injury is serious, you should nonetheless follow the procedures to protect your rights and your future. Symptoms can manifest hours or even days after an accident, and if you neglect to follow the proper procedure, you could find yourself prohibited from filing a Washington workers’ compensation claim.
Notify your supervisor or HR department, then make sure you are checked out by a doctor. You can file an accident report for your injury or occupational exposure at your doctor’s office, on the L & I website, or by calling L & I during business hours. Usually, if your doctor certifies you were injured at work or have an occupational disease, L & I or your self-insured employer will probably approve your claim. If the doctor is unable to certify the injury or medical condition is related to work, the claim could be rejected. If your claim is denied, you can protect the decision by appealing to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals.
Obtaining Legal Help for Your Washington Workers’ Compensation Benefit Claim
Interpreting Washington’s workers’ compensation laws could be more complex than you might think; workers’ compensation laws change frequently and handling a viable workers’ compensation claim on your own can be difficult. At Palace Law, we have helped thousands of injured workers win their workers’ compensation claims. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help you with your claim. At Palace Law, we possess more than 100 years of collective legal experience which can benefit your workers’ compensation claim. Don’t wait—contact Palace Law in Tacoma today for experienced assistance with your Washington workers’ compensation claim.