Accidents happen in the workplace. According to official federal government data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 2.7 million workplace injuries were reported nationwide in 2020. Washington’s workers’ compensation laws help to ensure that people who were hurt on the job have access to medical coverage and wage loss benefits.
Workers’ compensation helps to fill the gap for people who are unable to work due to their injury. This raises an important question: Can you work while on workers’ comp? The answer depends on a few factors—but you must always report your work status and earnings to the Department of Labor & Industries or the self-insured employer. Here, our Seattle workers’ comp lawyers explain what to know about working while on workers’ compensation in Washington.
Understanding Workers’ Comp Benefits in Washington
In Washington State, workers’ compensation benefits cover medical care and time loss. Under WAC 296-20-01002, an injured worker can claim benefits for all health care services that are “proper and necessary.” In other words, your medical care will be covered by workers’ compensation if it is reasonably related to your injury and curative or rehabilitative using accepted methods and practices. Your medical coverage for workers’ comp is not cut off when you return to work. You can keep receiving medical coverage as long as the treatment in question is proper and necessary.
Many injured workers are forced to miss time on the job in order to recover from their work-related injury. In Washington, injured workers can claim time loss benefits through a workers’ comp claim. As a general rule, time loss benefits (Temporary Total Disability (TTD)) are paid at two-thirds of a claimant’s pre-injury earnings—up to a statutory maximum of weekly benefit.
Time loss benefits are designed to make up for the earnings you lost due to your injury. If you are able to return to work at your previous position—making the same salary—then you would not be entitled to time loss benefits in Washington State. These benefits exist for those who are losing out on earnings due to injury or illness. Time loss benefits are not available for injured workers who are making the same amount as they did pre-injury.
Some workers can receive time-loss benefits even though they return to work. For instance, you may be required to take a light-duty position or a light-duty assignment following your work injury. As described by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), light-duty work is “work your employer may offer within your medical restrictions for you to perform while you recover.” In some cases, light-duty work is an entirely new job position. In other cases, light-duty work may merely be reduced hours or job duties.
The challenge is that light-duty work does not always pay a person the pre-accident earnings. If you are on light duty work and you are receiving less money than you were making before your work-related accident, you can still claim workers’ comp benefits for loss of earning power (LEP). Your workers’ comp LEP compensation should help fill the gap. If you have any questions about light-duty assignments and TTD or LEP benefits, our Washington workers’ comp lawyer can help.
Workers’ Comp Violations: Unreported Work and Unreported Income
With light-duty work, the specific terms must be reported—otherwise, you will not be eligible to continue receiving workers’ comp benefits for LEP. You need to report where you are working and how much you are earning. In Washington, workers’ comp claimants are not permitted to engage in unreported work, nor are they permitted to earn unreported income.
If you earn unreported work income and continue to collect temporary total disability benefits through workers’ compensation insurance, you could be charged with fraud. This is a very serious matter. Regulators in Washington State are cracking down on workers’ comp fraud. An individual who fails to report their work status or earnings could face civil or even criminal penalties.
Get Help From a Seattle, WA Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today
At The Walthew Law Firm, our Washington workers’ compensation lawyers provide top-quality legal advocacy to workers. Your rights matter. If you have any questions about working while on workers’ comp, we are here to help. Give us a call or contact us online to set up your no cost, no obligation case evaluation. We provide workers’ comp representation throughout the region, including in Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue, Kent, Everett, Renton, Federal Way, Puyallup, and Kirkland.