Were you hurt on the job in Washington? If so, you are certainly not alone. According to official government data, more than 27,000 workers’ compensation claims were allowed in the state in 2019.
In Washington, the overwhelming majority of employees are entitled to no-fault workers’ comp benefits. Unfortunately, getting an L&I claim paid can be challenging. Too many injured workers make mistakes early on in the claims process which undermine their ability to get full benefits.
Are you asking yourself, “how does L&I work?” We want to make sure that you know how to protect your rights and effectively navigate the claims process. In this article, our Seattle workers’ compensation attorneys highlight six critical mistakes that you need to avoid.
Mistake #1: Waiting Too Long to Report Your Injuries
If you were hurt on the job, your first priority should be to get emergency medical attention. Nothing comes before your health and well-being. If your doctor does not ask if your injuries occurred on the job, you should tell your doctor and file a workers’ compensation claim at the doctor’s office. Then, as soon as possible, you should report your injuries to your immediate supervisor or your company’s human resources department.
Under Washington law, workers must report industrial injuries or occupational illnesses, in writing, to their self-insured employer or the Department of Labor & Industries in a timely manner – one year from the date of injury for an injury claim and two years from your doctor’s notification if you have an occupational disease. Failure to do so could prevent you from bringing a successful L&I claim. Never let your boss discourage you from formally reporting your injuries. You have a legal right to seek L&I benefits.
Mistake #2: Using Your Employer’s Doctor
In many cases, employers will recommend specific physicians to injured workers. While employers can recommend a doctor, you have the right to choose your own trusted health care provider. You should question the independence of a doctor who has a working relationship with an employer. Will the doctor advocate for you or for your employer on issues of return to work or payment of benefits? Exercise your right to choose your own doctor. Labor and Industries (L&I) maintains a network of primary care providers who offer treatment to injured workers.
Mistake #3: Downplaying the Severity of Your Injuries
Always be completely honest with your doctor. Do not downplay the severity of your injuries, your pain and suffering, or the extent of your impairments. Take stock of all of your injuries and not just the most painful one. A complete list of all injured body parts on the Report of Accident will help you should the Department of Labor & Industries try to deny a condition or treatment later in the claim. If you downplay your own injuries, you may struggle to get access to the full L&I benefits that you rightfully deserve. No one wants to complain or be a burden, but it is crucial that you be open and honest about the full extent of your injuries.
Mistake #4: Saying Too Much About Your Case
As soon as you notify your supervisor of a work-related injury or occupational disease, assume that your employer has a vested interest in your return to work. An L&I claim is a formal legal matter, and your consistent honesty with your doctor and your employer is your best bet. Follow the policies of your employer regarding leave from work because of your injuries. While your case is still pending, keep the specifics of your injury and recovery between you, your doctor, and your immediate family. It’s nobody’s business whether or not you receive monetary benefits under your workers’ comp claim. Never post about your condition or your recovery on social media. Do not give an insurer a reason to deny your claim.
Mistake #5: Accepting Unfairly Low Monetary Benefits
Your time loss compensation and loss-of-earning benefits are based on your date-of-injury wages from all employment. If you have more than one job, you should list the wages from all your jobs. List regular overtime, shift differentials, and employer-paid medical, dental, and vision insurance. If you don’t list all your income, you won’t be compensated correctly. Likewise, list your spouse, if any, your domestic partner, and all your children under the age of 18 (or age 23 if your child remains in an accredited school full time). Watch for orders from L&I setting your wages. You only have 60 days from when you receive the wage order to protest in writing.
If you completed your medical treatment and still have a permanent impairment, you should receive a disability rating before the Department of Labor & Industries officially closes your claim. Your permanent partial disability rating (PPD rating) will determine how much compensation you receive for your impairment. If your disability rating is unfairly low, your PPD award will also be unfairly low. Do not accept an unjust disability rating. You have the right to challenge the rating.
Mistake #6: Failing to Seek Legal Help
You do not always need to hire a lawyer to help with your L&I claim. If you were not seriously injured, you are able to return to work, and your case is being handled properly, an attorney may not be able to provide value. If you run into any problems in the L&I claims process such as denial of time loss compensation, denial of treatment, or rejection of the claim, you should contact an experienced workers’ comp lawyer as soon as possible. Far too many people wait too long to seek professional guidance and support. During a free consultation, an attorney can help you better understand your rights and options.
Call Our Attorneys for Help with L&I Claims in Washington State
At The Walthew Law Firm, our Washington workers’ comp lawyers are skilled, experienced advocates for injured workers. If you have questions or concerns about L&I claims, we are available to help. If you are wondering, “will my L&I claim be successful,” don’t wait any longer to reach out to a professional. Contact us today to schedule a free, fully confidential initial consultation. With offices in Seattle and Everett, our attorneys are proud to represent workers throughout Western Washington.