Americans change jobs a lot more now than they did in decades past. According to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average employee has worked for their current company for 4.1 years. A work-related accident does not stop life from moving forward. You could find yourself needing or wanting to change jobs shortly after sustaining an injury in the workplace.
This raises an important question: Can you change jobs while receiving workers’ compensation benefits in Washington? The short answer is “yes,” though there are some additional considerations that you need to keep in mind. In this article, our Seattle workers’ compensation lawyers highlight the most important things to know about changing jobs while receiving workers’ comp benefits.
A Change in Employment Status Does Not Prevent a Claim
As a starting point, your ability to file a workers’ compensation claim and your ability to receive benefits is not directly tied to your employment status. This means that you are allowed to pursue workers’ comp benefits if you are still gainfully employed at the same company, have changed jobs, or were laid off. Remember, it is always best to file a workers’ compensation injury claim as soon as possible after the injury.
You can pursue any other related claim as well. For example, if you were injured on a construction site due to the negligence of a subcontractor (not your own employer). You have the right to file a workers’ comp claim and a third-party liability claim even if you decide to change jobs.
Workers’ Comp Claims Tip: Injured workers have important legal rights in Washington State. Among other things, you have the right to file a workers’ comp claim without facing any adverse treatment or retaliation from your employer. If you were fired, laid off, harassed, or otherwise subject to retaliation because you filed for workers’ compensation benefits, your rights were violated. Contact an attorney.
Your Current Ability to Earn an Income (or Lack Thereof) is Relevant
We are sometimes asked, “will it hurt my worker’s comp claim to go back to work?” The usual answer is “no,” but doing so can impact benefits on a claim. The effect depends on the specific nature of your case, including the type of workers’ comp benefits that you are seeking or already receiving. Here is what you should know about how a change in employment could impact the most common types of workers’ comp benefits in Washington:
- Medical Benefits: In Washington, injured workers are entitled to workers’ comp for all medical care and rehabilitative treatment related to a claim that is “proper and necessary.” You can still pursue full L&I medical benefits even if you change jobs.
- Wage Loss Benefits: A new job could impact your wage loss benefits. Once you return to work, your income will be counted against your workers’ comp time loss benefits. If your salary at your new job is lower than your date-of-injury salary, you may still qualify for loss of earning power (LEP) benefits to make up for a percentage of the difference.
- Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) Benefits: An injured worker can receive a permanent partial disability (PPD) award if they have a permanent impairment that was caused by a work-related accident. Changing jobs does not affect your right to a PPD award. A Washington workers’ comp lawyer can help get PPD compensation.
Be Sure to Discuss Health Restrictions Before Taking a New Position
If you were hurt on the job in Washington State, your doctor may approve your return to work on a part-time or light-duty basis. Any doctor-prescribed work restrictions should be followed. It is important you make sure that your employer is fully aware of your limitations. You and your doctor will want to make sure that any new position is one you are physically and mentally capable of performing without putting your health and well-being at risk.
Contact Our Seattle Workers’ Compensation Lawyers for a Free Consultation
At The Walthew Law Firm, our Seattle workers’ comp attorneys are skilled, results-driven advocates for injured workers and their family members. We can help you navigate the workers’ comp claims process. If you have any specific questions about changing jobs while on workers’ comp, our legal team is available to help. Call us today or connect with us online for a free, no obligation case evaluation. We represent injured workers throughout Washington, including in Tacoma, Everett, Bellevue, Renton Federal Way, Redmond, Lakewood, Lynnwood, and Puyallup.