On April 15th, 2021, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) announced that new workplace safety regulations for temporary workers are coming later this summer. Governor Jay Inslee has signed SHB 1206, a law designed to help protect our state’s temporary workers.
In a “first-of-its-kind” law in the United States, Washington legislators have passed a bill that is designed to help ensure that temporary employees hired through a staffing agency are better informed about workplace hazards and receive proper safety training at any workplace.
Temporary employees deserve safe and fair conditions in the workplace. In this article, our Seattle workers’ compensation lawyers provide an overview of the new job safety regulations coming to Washington for temporary workers effective July of 2021.
The Problem: Temporary Workers Face Higher Job-Related Injury Risks
In recent years, an alarming number of new studies and reports have come out highlighting the disproportionate workplace safety risks faced by temporary employees. As Joel Sacks, the Director of Labor and Industries explained, “the research on this is startling. These temporary workers are getting hurt at a much higher rate than other workers in our state.” In fact, workers’ compensation rates for temporary workers are twice those of permanent workers.
The safety problem is not limited to Washington. Temporary workers all across the United States face heightened risks. In 2020, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released a report finding that temporary workers were more than twice as likely to be involved in a serious job-related accident as were permanent employees.
Industries with High Levels of Temporary Workers
In Washington, many companies rely heavily on the contributions of temporary workers. They regularly work with outside staff agencies that supply temporary workers. The highest risk occupations are in agriculture, vehicle operations, construction, and machine operations. These industries can be more dangerous for workers if proper training and safety precautions are not met.
Workplace safety experts believe that temporary workers are more likely to be involved in workplace accidents for several reasons, including:
- Temporary employees are unfamiliar with their new work practices and surroundings;
- Temporary employees are often not fully informed of potential risks ahead of time; and
- Temporary employees often receive little or no workplace safety training.
In effect, the research suggests that the disproportionate risks faced by temporary workers could be reduced or even eliminated with proper information, tools, resources, and training.
A New Workplace Safety Law Will Take Effect on July 25, 2021
At the request of the Department of Labor & Industries, Washington legislators passed and Governor Jay Inslee signed into law. The bill focuses on reducing hazards and protecting temporary worker in our state. It ensures temporary agencies and employers have proper safety and training procedures in place and that temporary workers are well versed in those procedures. The legislation will officially take effect in Washington on July 25, 2021. Here are three key things to know about SHB 1206 and what it does to help protect the health and safety of temporary workers:
- Covered Employers Must Coordinate Safety and Training with Staffing Agencies: In reviewing the research, Washington lawmakers and Washington safety officials determined that a significant problem was lack of information sharing between employers and temporary staffing agencies. The new law is designed to address that problem directly. Covered employers should document any safety hazards and provide that information to staffing agencies. In turn, the staffing agencies must inform temporary workers.
- Better Safety Training for Temporary Workers: Information sharing is the first step in the process. It will help to ensure that temporary workers know exactly what they are getting into when they accept a position. SHB 1206 also puts new, heightened safety training requirements on employers and staffing agencies. Well-designed safety training can dramatically reduce the risk of accidents.
- Updated Training for New Positions with the Same Employer. If a temporary worker changes job tasks or work location, the employer must notify the staffing agency and employee and update training and safety equipment for the new position.
There are high hopes that this law could make a real difference for hardworking people in Washington. As Dave DeSario, the Director of the national not-for-profit organization Temp Worker Justice, noted Washington’s new temporary worker safety law is a “major achievement and provides a blueprint for the rest of the country to follow.” Some estimates suggest that the new law could reduce several hundred accidents involving temporary workers in Washington each year.
Temporary Employees are Entitled to Financial Benefits for Work-Related Injuries
All workers are legally entitled to safe conditions on the job and proper training, especially for hazardous work. Proper training has been lacking for temporary workers in the past as evidenced by their higher than usual injury rates. Companies and organizations must put in the resources to protect their temporary staff members. As explained by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “staffing agencies and host employers are jointly responsible for maintaining a safe work environment for temporary workers.”
Temporary workers, as well as more permanent workers, can report safety violations to the Department of Labor & Industries. For immediate safety issues, call 800-423-7233 or fill in a form and submit it to the Department. Anyone can do so anonymously.
Temporary workers do not have to go through the workers’ comp claims process alone. If you were injured as a temporary worker in Washington, our Seattle workers’ comp lawyers are here to help you navigate the claims process. Compensation may be available for all proper and necessary medical treatment, lost wages, and permanent disabilities/impairments.
Contact Our Seattle Workers’ Compensation Attorneys for Immediate Help
At The Walthew Law Firm, our Washington workers’ comp lawyers provide reliable, results-focused guidance and support to injured workers and their families. If you or your family member was hurt on the job as a temporary employee, we are ready and willing to get started on your case right away. Contact our firm today to set up your no cost, no obligation initial consultation. We represent injured workers throughout the entire region, including in King County, Pierce County, Thurston County, Kitsap County, Mason County, Snohomish County, and Skagit County.
According to official state government data, approximately 120,000 workers’ compensation claims are filed in Washington each year, of which 75 percent are filed through Labor & Industries (L&I), and 25 percent are filed against self-insured employers. In some cases, an injury prevents a worker from returning to their previous position or occupation. L&I provides vocational assessment, which can sometimes lead to job retraining.
At The Walthew Law Firm, our legal team has represented injured workers in Washington for more than 80 years. We want to make sure that all workers understand their rights, responsibilities, and options as it relates to vocational benefits. Here, our Washington workers’ comp attorneys provide an overview of your vocational options in an L&I workers’ compensation claim. If you have specific questions about vocational benefits, please do not hesitate to contact our Seattle office for immediate help.
Vocational Training in Washington: An Overview
As defined by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), vocational retraining is a benefit designed to help injured workers obtain the job skills they need to re-enter the workforce in a new position. Under RCW 51.32.095, “(2)Vocational rehabilitation services may be provided to an injured worker when in the sole discretion of the supervisor or the supervisor’s designee vocational rehabilitation is both necessary and likely to make the work employable at gainful employment.”
During the vocational assessment, L&I’s assigned vocational counselor will take a complete work and educational history from the injured worker, determine transferable skills (skills acquired through prior education, training, and experience), consider the physical impacts of the industrial injury and any pre-existing, disabling conditions to determine eligibility for vocational retraining. RCW 51.32.095 lists the other employment options which must be considered prior to any recommendation for retraining. If an injured worker qualifies for any jobs in options (a) through (h) below, then vocational retraining will not be offered.
(a) Return to the previous job with the same employer;
(b) Modification of the previous job with the same employer, including transitional return to work;
(c) A new job with the same employer in keeping with any limitations or restrictions;
(d) Modification of a new job with the same employer, including transitional return to work;
(e) Modification of the previous job with a new employer;
(f) A new job with a new employer or self-employment based upon transferable skills;
(g) Modification of a new job with a new employer;
(h) A new job with a new employer or self-employment involving on-the-job training;
(i) Short-term retraining.
A Vocational Counselor Will Be Assigned
If L&I determines vocational retraining is appropriate, an individual vocational counselor will be assigned. Among other things, the vocational counselor is responsible for helping an injured worker choose and develop a job retraining plan. This is called Vocational Plan Development. Plan Development will include:
- A comprehensive work assessment;
- Development and implementation of the vocational plan;
- Vocational retraining/rehabilitation services; and
- Other support services as deemed necessary.
Once a retraining plan is identified by the vocational counselor and approved by L&I, a worker will be given the opportunity to select one of two separate retraining paths:
- Option 1: Follow the vocational retraining plan identified by the counselor and approved by L&I.
- Option 2: Opt-out of the pre-approved vocational plan and use the available resources to develop your own plan.
Vocational Benefits in Washington: An Overview of Option 1
Vocational Option 1 is the job retraining program identified by the vocational counselor and pre-approved by L&I. Notably, this option is the “automatic” option. If a worker does not respond to L&I once the plan is approved and communicated to the injured worker, it will be the default selection. As of July 1st, 2020, an injured worker is eligible for a maximum of $19,033.67 in vocational benefits. Here are the three key things about L&I Vocational Option 1:
- There is a two-year time limit for job retraining/rehabilitation;
- Time-loss compensation will be paid as long as the worker participates in the retraining plan; and
- Medical benefits can be paid as long as the worker participates in the retraining plan.
Option 1 vocational retraining program will not necessarily be approved for two years. Instead, the length of the program will depend entirely on the retraining “needs” of the individual worker. Injured workers must cooperate with the vocational counselor through Plan Development and retraining. Otherwise, L&I may suspend (stop) time-loss compensation and medical benefits until the worker is cooperative in the process.
Vocational Benefits in Washington: An Overview of Option 2
Washington does not require injured workers to follow any specific job-retraining plan. If a retraining plan is written and approved by L&I and Vocational Option 2 is selected, the injured worker can opt-out of the pre-approved vocational retraining plan. Instead of following the recommendations from L&I, an injured worker can utilize the Option 1 retraining costs to develop their own plan. For example, the Option 1 retraining plan provides for books, tuition, and other costs of $10,000. The injured worker can select Option 2 and use that $10,000 for a different retraining program. There are some drawbacks to going with Option 2. If L&I Option 2 is selected, the following will happen:
- Vocational retraining funds must be used within five years of selection of Option 2;
- An award of nine months of time-loss compensation will be paid out every 2 weeks;
- Medical benefits will end; and
- The workers’ compensation claim will be closed.
Option 2 allows flexibility to develop a different retraining program than the one suggested and approved by L&I. You will have the flexibility to use the funding for a retraining plan you choose rather than something chosen by L&I’s vocational counselor. It can be used towards tuition, books, fees, supplies, equipment, and tools related to your retraining program. For specific information, see L&I’s Vocational Option 2 pamphlet or other qualifying educational or job-licensing programs. At the same time, it is important to remember that with Option 2, you will not be paid time-loss compensation while you attend school but will be strictly limited to nine months from the time you select Option 2. Finally, your claim will close, and your medical treatment will stop.
Not Sure What Option to Pursue? An Attorney Can Help
Navigating the L&I claims process is complicated. If you are unsure as to what vocational option is the right choice for your situation, you are certainly not alone.
Washington law clearly states that both Vocational Options 1 and 2 are valid. Most injured workers will benefit from Option 1, as it allows them to receive their time-loss compensation throughout the retraining process – up to two years. The decision you make regarding your vocational options can and will determine future benefits under your workers’ compensation claim. If you are weighing your options for vocational rehabilitation, an experienced Seattle, WA L&I attorney can help.
Schedule a Free Consultation With L&I Workers’ Comp Lawyer in Washington
At The Walthew Law Firm, our top-rated Washington workers’ comp lawyers provide proactive and effective representation when you need help the most. If you have any questions about your options in your L&I workers’ comp claim, we are more than ready to help. Contact us now to set up a free, no commitment case evaluation. From our law offices in Seattle and Everett, we represent workers in L&I claims throughout the region, including in Tacoma, Renton, Federal Way, Kent, Lynnwood, Redmond, Kirkland, Vashon Island, Puyallup, Bainbridge Island, Snohomish, and Marysville.
Did you receive an unfavorable decision from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I)? If so, you may be feeling stressed out or overwhelmed. Please know that you have the right to protest the order in writing and, if necessary, file an appeal with the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals. In this article, our Seattle workers’ comp attorneys provide a more comprehensive overview of the most important things you should know about protesting or appealing an L&I decision in Washington.
Understanding Your L&I Order
L&I is a Washington State government agency that is charged with administering Washington State workers’ compensation claims. When L&I makes a determination on a workers’ comp case, you are notified through a written document called an order. Depending on the decision, your L&I order may be called a Notice of Decision, Order and Notice, Payment Order, or simply Order. When you get an L&I order, you should:
- Read the order;
- Take the time to understand what it means to you and your claim; and
- Review and note any protest or appeal deadline listed on it.
Unfortunately, L&I does not always come to correct decisions. You have the right to protest an adverse workers’ compensation order, but you must do so within the 60 days of L&I’s order or within whatever time limit is specified on the order or letter. If you have any questions or concerns about the L&I order, an experienced Washington workers’ comp lawyer can help.
There are also times when L&I will send a letter which denies treatment such as surgery, physical therapy, or medications. Carefully read all letters you received on your claim. You may have the same protest or appeal rights to the decision in the letter even if it doesn’t contain statutory deadline language.
Protesting an L&I Decision Starts with a Written Protest
If you received an unfavorable order from L&I, you can file a written protest with the Department of Labor & Industries or your self-insured employer. A phone call to your claim manager saying you are unhappy with an order is not sufficient. The protest can be mailed or you can file the protest through L&I’s Claim and Account Center. The reconsideration process is L&I’s internal appeals procedure. In order to file a valid protest to an L&I order, you must do the following:
- Within the time limits explained on the order or letter, write a letter to your claim manager explaining why you are protesting the decision. State in your protest the date you received the order or letter;
- If L&I closed your claim, denied surgery, or denied a medical condition, provide information from your physician or health care provider explaining why you and your provider disagree with L&I’s decision; and
- Submit your workers’ comp claim through the online Claim & Account Center or send a written protest to the address listed on the order or letter.
Each protest is unique and written based on the issue addressed in the order or letter and the medical support for your position. The written protest should clearly explain why you believe L&I made the wrong decision. You can usually benefit from providing supplemental documents, records, and evidence as part of your L&I protest.
Know the Deadline: There is a strict 60-day deadline to protest an unfavorable Labor & Industries order by filing a written protest. Any protest must be sent in writing. If you fail to place your written protest in the mail or file it through L&I’s Claim and Account Center within 60 days from the date you received the order, the unfavorable order will become final and binding on you and your claim.
You Can Appeal the Denial of Your L&I Claim to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals
An alternative to submitting a protest directly to L&I is to appeal an adverse decision to the state of Washington Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals (BIIA). The BIIA is a state government agency that is entirely independent from L&I. It has the authority to hear workers’ compensation appeals. If your claim or protest was denied by L&I, you can appeal the denial order to the BIIA. The same deadlines apply for your appeal – 60 days from the date you receive an unfavorable order from L&I or other time limit specified in a denial letter. An appeal must comply with the requirements of RCW 51.52.070. To bring an L&I appeal in Washington, you must include the following information:
- Your name and claim number;
- The exact date of the L&I order being appealed and when you received the order;
- A list of every issue in the L&I decision being appealed;
- The reasons why you disagree with the decision; and
- Any supporting evidence or information to justify the appeal.
To successfully appeal an L&I denial, you must present a strong, well-supported case. The appeals process is complex and you should probably not go through the workers’ comp appeals process on your own. An experienced Washington workers’ comp lawyer can help you put together the case you need to fight for the full and fair benefits you are entitled to under the law.
Know the Deadline: As with a protest, there is a 60-day deadline to file an appeal with the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals. If you fail to submit a BIIA appeal within 60 days, then your case may be dismissed before you can present any evidence.
You Can Start with a Protest or Appeal
It is usually best for you to challenge an adverse L&I decision by protesting it to L&I’s claim manager. The protest reconsideration process at L&I is typically faster and more cost-effective than an appeal. However, you have the right to file an appeal directly with the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals without first protesting the decision. If you go straight to the BIIA, the Board will notify L&I and provide the agency with an opportunity to reassume jurisdiction and review its initial determination.
Schedule a Free, Confidential Consultation with a Workers’ Comp Lawyer in Washington
At The Walthew Law Firm, our Washington workers’ comp attorneys are passionate and dedicated advocates for injured workers and their families. If you have any questions about how to protest an unfavorable L&I decision, we are more than ready to help. Contact our law firm now for a no-cost, no-obligation initial consultation. With office locations in Seattle and Everett, we are well-positioned to help workers throughout Western Washington, including in King County, Snohomish County, Kitsap County, Pierce County, and Skagit County, protest or appeal their unfavorable L&I decisions.
If you or your loved one suffered a serious injury as a result of the careless or reckless conduct of another party, you might be eligible to recover financial compensation through a personal injury claim. Unfortunately, in many cases, injured victims struggle to get access to the full financial support that they rightfully deserve. You need a top-rated personal injury lawyer on your side.
This raises an important question: How do you find the right personal injury attorney in Washington? The key to finding a great attorney is asking the right questions. Here is a list of five of the most important questions that you should ask before hiring a personal injury lawyer in Seattle, WA.
1. Do You Have Experience with Cases Similar to Mine?
Experience counts. You will rest far easier when you have a seasoned professional on your team. Before you hire a personal injury lawyer, be sure to ask about their previous experience. Not only do you want to find a lawyer who has represented clients in personal injury claims, but you want to look for a lawyer who has handled cases that are similar to your own. Whether you were injured in a car accident or hurt because of a dangerous and defective product, that relevant experience can make a big difference. No matter what obstacles arise in the claims process, your lawyer will know how to take action to protect your rights.
2. Who Will Be Responsible for Handling My Case?
A successful attorney-client relationship is a partnership. You must be able to effectively communicate with your lawyer, and you need to know and trust the professional who is handling your case. Before you hire a lawyer, one of the most important questions you need to ask is “Who will be doing most of the work on my case?” Unfortunately, some national law firms take in a large number of cases and then farm them out to less experienced associates or even to partner firms. You should be able to talk directly to the attorney who is responsible for handling your case.
3. How Much do you Think my Personal Injury Claim is Worth?
Ultimately, nothing matters more than results. If you were severely injured in an accident in Washington, you need the maximum available financial compensation so that you can pay your medical bills and support yourself. Beyond those direct costs, your non-economic damages should be fully accounted for. Under Washington law (RCW 4.56.250), injured victims are entitled to seek compensation for damages such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other related losses. An experienced personal injury attorney should be able to provide an assessment of how much you can reasonably expect to recover.
4. What are Your Fees and Will I be Responsible for any Legal Costs?
You should always ask a personal injury lawyer how they will be paid for their services. Great personal injury lawyers will provide a clear and comprehensible explanation of how their fees work. Do not hire a personal injury attorney if you are having a hard time understanding how much you will owe. At The Walthew Law Firm, our experienced Seattle, WA personal injury attorneys take on personal injury/negligence claims on contingency. With a contingency agreement in place, our clients never pay any upfront costs or out-of-pocket fees. We only get paid when we win or settle your case.
5. Do You Offer a Free Initial Consultation?
Before you hire a personal injury lawyer, it is recommended that you sit down for a consultation.
During a free consultation, you will have an opportunity to ask specific questions to a personal injury lawyer, including their professional background, their style, their strategy, and your case. Come prepared for your consultation with all the questions you have about your legal rights and your legal options. A consultation is your chance to make sure that you are truly hiring the right lawyer.
Schedule Your Free Personal Injury Consultation Today
At The Walthew Law Firm, our Washington on-the-job injury lawyers are skilled, experienced advocates for plaintiffs. If you or a loved one were hurt in an accident, we are ready to help. To request a free, no-obligation review of your personal injury case, please contact our personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers now. From our offices in Seattle and Everett, we represent injured victims throughout the region, including Redmond, Kirkland, Bellevue, Renton, Tacoma, and Federal Way.
Unfortunately, car crashes happen to even the safest of drivers. Insurance industry groups estimate that the average motorist will be in four to six traffic collisions during their lifetime. While any collision is stressful, a car accident is all the more complicated during adverse winter weather.
Winter weather accidents are a risk in western Washington. It is crucial that drivers know what to do after a crash and how to properly prepare for the winter driving season. In this article, our Seattle car accident lawyers highlight the key things you need to know about winter weather driving in Washington.
Know the Dangers of Winter Driving in Washington
It is no surprise that winter weather increases the risk of an accident. Winter is associated with the potential for slick roads, reduced visibility, and a greater percentage of nighttime driving. Unfortunately, while most people are broadly aware of the risks of driving in adverse winter weather, crashes remain a very serious public safety problem. According to a report from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), approximately 115,000 people are injured and 1,300 people are killed in winter weather-related accidents each year.
Washington drivers need to be ready for winter weather. The FHWA classifies the entire state as a ‘snowy region’—regions where adverse winter weather is likely to occur at least a few times per year. Although the City of Seattle only averages a few inches of snow annually, you do not have to travel far towards the Cascades to get to areas that receive enormous amounts of snow each year.
Six Steps to Take If You are Involved in a Winter Car Accident
Following a winter traffic collision, it is imperative that you know how to protect your health, your family, and your legal rights. There are some basic things to do to put yourself in the best position to recover from the collision. Here are six steps that you should take after a winter weather motor vehicle accident in Washington:
- Stop Your Vehicle: Under Washington law, all drivers are required to stop their vehicle and remain at the scene of a collision, except for emergency medical needs. You should get immediate medical care for any serious injuries.
- Call the Police: If someone was hurt or there was significant property damage, the crash should be reported to law enforcement. Call the police right away.
- Control the Scene: Winter weather collisions can be especially frightening. You need to get yourself and your family to safety. Whether that means staying somewhere warm or moving away from a slick stop where a moving vehicle could slide, safety should always come first.
- Exchange Information and Document the Crash: The more information you have, the easier it will be to bring a car accident injury claim. Beyond exchanging information with the other driver(s) involved in the wreck, make sure you take pictures of the crash and the road, and record any other relevant details.
- Seek Medical Care for Any Injuries: All car accident injuries should be evaluated by a doctor. Even if you do not require emergency care, make sure you get an examination. You cannot bring a car accident injury claim for compensation without medical records.
- Be Ready to Call a Lawyer: If you or your loved one was hurt in a crash, it is best to consult with a car accident attorney before giving a statement to an insurance adjuster—even if that representative is from your own insurer.
How to Prepare Your Vehicle for the Winter Driving Season
With winter driving in our region, careful preparations can make all of the difference. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) recommends that motorists take the following four precautions:
- Put together a winter weather road safety kit, including blankets, hand warmers, flashlights, and bottled water;
- Drive slower and leave additional distance between vehicles;
- Make sure you have the proper traction on your tires; and
- Check the road and weather conditions before starting your trip. When in doubt, do not drive.
Schedule a Free Consultation With a Car Accident Attorney in Seattle
At The Walthew Law Firm, our Washington car accident injury lawyers fight aggressively to protect the rights and interests of our clients. If you or someone you know was hurt in a winter weather traffic collision, we are available to help. Contact our firm now for a free, no obligation initial consultation. We represent motor vehicle accident victims throughout Western Washington, including in Seattle, Tacoma, Renton, Lakewood, Bremerton, Marysville, and Lynnwood.
It has been a difficult year for public health in our region. The Washington State Department of Health reports that more than 227,000 cases of the COVID-19 virus have been confirmed as of December 25. Unfortunately, the virus continues to spread at higher rates—more cases were reported in Washington in November than in any other month of the pandemic.
As the COVID-19 pandemic remains a public health problem in Washington, more and more people have questions about telehealth services. State officials have put some temporary regulations in place to facilitate virtual health services. Here, our Washington workers’ comp lawyers provide an overview of remote medical visits, COVID-19, and work injury claims.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth is a broad term used to describe medical services through electronic and telecommunication technologies, including remote medical visits. Because Governor Inslee declared a state of emergency related to COVID-19, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) created regulations that allowed for telehealth visits. Initially scheduled to end in July 2020, L&I extended authorization for telehealth visits through June 30, 2021.
What are the Benefits of Remote Medical Visits?
Remote medical visits offer significant potential benefits to injured workers, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, while substantially reducing the risk of contracting the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC), the benefits of telehealth services and remote medical visits include:
- Lower risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus;
- Quicker access to necessary medical services, particularly screening;
- Better monitoring of ongoing treatment and patient progress; and
- Effective follow-up care for patients.
Remote Medical Visits and Your L&I Claim: Understanding the Basics
If you or your loved one was hurt on the job in Washington, you are entitled to all medical care that is proper and necessary. Under Washington’s workers’ comp laws, proper and necessary medical treatment can include remote medical visits and other types of telehealth services. To get remote medical care covered under workers’ compensation insurance in Washington, the following requirements must be met:
- The telehealth provider must be properly licensed and part of L&I’s Provider Network;
- The worker must have previously established care with the medical provider. The worker can stay in his or her own home for the telehealth visit;
- The remote medical visit must include both audio and video; and
- The telehealth provider should submit the proper report/documentation authorizing the remote medical exam.
Additionally, the injured worker’s medical provider can complete, sign, and submit an Activity Prescription Form (APF) during a telehealth visit. L&I updates its rules and regulations regarding COVID-19 and telehealth visits to protect injured workers.
Important: Emergency COVID-19 Regulations Allow In-Home Remote Medical Visits
Under pre-COVID rules, origination sites are medical facilities such as hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices. In normal times, a worker cannot use their own home as an origination site. However, the State of Washington has put temporary emergency regulations in place to allow injured workers to get remote medical services from their homes.
On July 29, 2020, the Department of Labor & Industries updated its official Temporary Record Review & Telehealth Independent Medical Exams (IME) Policy. LNI wrote:
Labor and Industries (L&I) is temporarily allowing the delivery of independent medical exams (IME) via telehealth, and record reviews. This temporary telehealth policy helps limit the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, while still allowing exams to occur.
This allows injured workers to use their own home for the purposes of an IME. The policy is currently set to expire on June 30, 2021. At that point, Washington’s workers’ comp telehealth regulations will revert back to the pre-COVID-19 rules.
Know the Limits of Telehealth and Workers’ Comp in Washington
Injured workers should understand the limitations of remote medical visits and telehealth services. While remote medical visits can be a very useful tool, they may not be sufficient for full treatment and evaluation. As mentioned above, remote medical visits are useful for follow-up appointments and psychotherapy services.
Get Help from Our Washington Workers’ Comp Attorneys Today
At The Walthew Law Firm, our workers’ compensation lawyers deliver reliable, effective legal services to clients. If you have any questions about remote medical visits, our attorneys are ready to answer your questions. We are fully prepared to help you during a virtual legal consultation. Contact us today to set up a free, completely confidential review of your legal case. With office locations in Seattle and Everett, our law firm represents injured workers throughout the wider Puget Sound region, including in Kirkland, Bellevue, Kent, Vashon Island, Federal Way, Tacoma, Buckley, and Olympia.
Social media helps people connect and share their lives with friends and family members. No longer are popular sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter merely for young people. While just five percent of American adults were on social media in 2005, the Pew Research Center reports that nearly three quarters of people use at least one social media site. While use of these platforms is common and unproblematic for the most part, it is important for injured workers to understand that your social media posts could undermine your workers’ compensation claim.
At The Walthew Law Firm, our Seattle workers’ compensation lawyers are strong advocates for the rights and interests of injured workers and their families. Our legal team wants to ensure that everyone has the information that they need to protect themselves. Here, we explain the most important things that you should know about the risks associated with posting on social media while your work injury claim is in progress.
Social Media Posts Can Be Taken Out of Context and Used to Downplay Your Injuries
Social media posts are not automatically protected by law. Anything you choose to share on social media can be used as admissible evidence in a workers’ compensation case, a personal injury case, or other legal matters. This means your posts could potentially be seen by your employer, an insurance adjuster, or someone from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).
Unfortunately, a social media post can also be taken out of context and used to paint a misleading picture. As an example, imagine that you suffered a significant back injury on the job. You filed a workers’ compensation claim to receive medical care and time loss benefits. During your recovery, you post a picture of yourself smiling while taking a walk in the park on a bright sunny day.
A claims manager could try to use that post to argue that your injury is not “that bad.” After all, you are out there enjoying a nice day. Of course, that one social media post fails to show the whole picture—that a doctor recommended walking to help with your recovery or the pain you experienced on the ride over to the park. Nonetheless, it is best not to give L&I or your employer any excuse to deny your claim.
Enhanced Privacy Settings are Helpful—But They Offer No Guarantees
You do not want your social media account to undermine your workers’ compensation claim. A common question: Can I protect myself by changing my privacy settings? The answer is possibly—but even the strongest privacy settings are not a full guarantee of protection. Information that you share on the internet can spread—potentially to people who are not part of your friends’ and family’s network. If your workers’ comp claim goes to litigation, attorneys for L&I or your self-insured employer, through legally authorized discovery, can request a full and complete copy of all of your social media accounts, including all pictures and posts.
Best Practice: Limit Your Social Media Posts Until Your Claim is Resolved
With social media and workers’ compensation, the best practice is to exercise an abundance of caution. You do not want your social media posts to jeopardize your claim or your benefits. While your workers’ compensation claim is active, it is strongly recommended you limit your social media posts. This is especially important if your initial workers’ compensation claim was denied or you are otherwise in a dispute with L&I or your self-insured employer.
The bottom line: Remember, it is easy for social media content to get taken out of context. A post that you think is harmless could still cause problems. Do not let Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, or any other social media platform lead to a potential fraud order or benefit denial in your workers’ compensation claim.
Contact Our Seattle, WA, Workers’ Comp Lawyers for Help With Your Case
At The Walthew Law Firm, our Washington workers’ compensation attorneys provide trustworthy, results-driven legal advocacy to injured workers and their families. If you have any questions about workers’ compensation and social media, we are more than ready to protect your rights. Contact us today for a free, completely confidential initial consultation. With legal offices in Seattle and Everett, we serve communities throughout the entire region, including Bellevue, Tacoma, Renton, Federal Way, Lakewood, Redmond, Bremerton, and Vashon Island.