Workers’ Compensation is the practice of law to help those who have been injured on the job receive basic benefits and remedies. As a worker you are almost always entitled to these benefits regardless of your citizenship, being paid under the table or if your employer has failed to pay into the system. In exchange, you must always tell the truth, and cooperate with everyone involved in your claim.
However, your claim is constantly being monitored by a claims manager, decisions resulting in deadlines are being made. If these deadlines are not addressed in a timely manner, your benefits can be lost forever. Neither time nor the Department of Labor and Industries are on your side. Injured Washington workers are vastly underserved in Washington State. Too often we have to give the sad news of “You should have called us a lot sooner” to someone with no remedies available to them.
If you are a worker who was injured on the job you should call our Seattle, Tacoma, Everett and Bremerton Workers’ Compensation attorneys and see what rights are available to you under the Industrial Insurance Act. We are here to help you.
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A claim is filed by visiting a doctor and regardless of allowance/rejection the Department of Labor & Industries covers this visit. From there, medical coverage is still a priority. There are a network of “L&I providers” and getting a doctor who is the right fit for you can make a big difference from start to finish. They are responsible for certifying physical and mental limitations that may continue to keep you off work, referring you to specialists, getting objective testing approved and overall making sure your treatment continues as needed. However, their primary focus is your health and many times they reach out to communicate with your attorney to make sure they are acting accordingly to the L&I system to allow them to do so.
While you’re receiving medical treatment, you should be getting financially compensated for any time off work, hours less worked or reduced pay. This begins by L&I formally establishing a “wage order” which includes your earnings at the time of injury, this is called your “time-loss rate” and will determine how much you’re paid while receiving treatment. However, your salary/hourly rate are not the only items included in this amount. Health care, lodging, tips, overtime and more should all be considered when establishing this rate. Once L&I sets this rate it is important to consult an attorney right away to get help understanding how to maximize it and do so within 60 days or it will become final and binding.
Additional benefits include vocational rehabilitation. The primary goal is to make a claimant whole again in a way which would allow them to return to their job of injury, however, this is not always an option. In such a case, L&I assigns vocational counselors to go over other possibilities. Many times this means working with you to pick out a school program which L&I covers entirely and would result in obtaining a skill set making you employable within your physical/mental limitations. In the alternative, there are some cases where the injured-worker may not return to their job of injury or any level of employment, this should result in an L&I pension. This means you will be paid a monthly check at your time-loss rate for the rest of your life.
By the time a claim closes you should have been financially compensated for any medically-certified time off work, received the appropriate medical treatment to reach maximum medical improvement, returned to your job of injury or spoken with a vocational counselor, and received a lump-sum of money for any Permanent Partial Disability. It is at claim closure where you will see more than ever how your claim was handled along the way. Your claim is constantly building, and unless you have someone on your side it may be building against you. Too many times claimants reach out for help late in their claim and have been backed into a position against themselves at no fault of their own. There are many players in the lifetime of a claim and the system is supposed to be designed to favor the injured worker, however, due to the complexity of the area it can fail many workers if you do not have an experienced attorney on your side to make sure you’re taken care of along the way.