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Workers’ Compensation Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) in Washington state?

It is a state agency that handles all on-the-job injuries in the state of Washington.

When should I file a claim?

Anytime you think you have an injury that requires medical care you should file a claim. A claim must be filed within seven years from the date of injury.

How do you file an L&I claim when injured on the job?

  1. Notify your employer right away.
  2. If you need medical care, go to the E.R. or Urgent Care to get checked out.
  3. File a Report of Accident Form. You can find the form here for Washington State:
  4. After filling out the Report of Accident Form, follow your doctor’s advice if you need to stay home because of your injury.
  5. Contact an attorney for help. There will be a lot of paperwork. You will be in pain and you may not be able to concentrate to fill it out or keep track of it. That is why you hire an attorney to help you navigate the process.

What is an injury?

According to Washington State, an injury means, “a sudden and tangible happening, of a traumatic nature, producing an immediate or prompt result, and occurring from without, and such physical conditions as result therefrom.” RCW 51.08.100

For more information regarding Industrial Insurance, please see RCW 51. For more information on Department of Labor and Industries, please see RCW 43.22.

Can I sue my employer if I am injured at work?

Normally, an injured worker cannot sue his/her employer and co-worker when injured on the job in Washington State.

There are three exceptions to this rule:

  1. Intentional injury
  2. Non-L&I claim
  3. Temporary agency employee

The exception to the rule is that you can sue your employer if he/she intentionally injured you on the job. RCW 51.24.020 goes into detail about this. It is not easy to prove. The case law requires:

  1. The employer has actual, certain knowledge that the injury would occur.
  2. The employer willfully disregards that knowledge.

If a coworker or employer throws a punch at you, that is intentional and you will have a valid L&I claim.

When you establish an L&I claim, L&I will pay for:

  1. Medical Bills
  2. Transportation to and from doctor visits (must be over 30 miles)
  3. Time loss every two weeks
  4. Retraining for a different job if you cannot go back to your old job
  5. Prescriptions
  6. Travel for medical doctors if not in your area

What is the function of my claims manager?

Every case is assigned to a claims manager who supervises what is done on your case.

What is the function of a vocational counselor?

A vocational counselor helps to retrain an injured worker so the worker qualifies to do a different job. This happens when a worker can’t return to his/her “old” job.

What happens if I need surgery?

L&I will pay your medical bills for the surgery and after surgery medical treatment, e.g. physical therapy. L&I will pay for some of your prescriptions.

How do I get paid if I can’t work?

If your injuries prevent you from doing your job you are entitled to “time loss.” Time loss payments are made every two weeks and pays a portion of your lost wages.

Can I choose my own doctor?

Yes. A worker may choose his/her own treating doctor and surgeon.

What is an IME (independent medical exam)?

It is an exam done by a doctor L&I chooses to write a report that the worker is not badly hurt. These reports are used to close a worker’s claim without paying benefits.

Can I file a COVID-19 claim?

Yes. Certain requirements must be met before the claim is allowed.

What happens when a worker dies from his/her injuries?

When a worker dies, the money he/she was receiving can continue to certain beneficiaries, e.g., a surviving spouse.

Why do injured workers hire attorneys?

My clients hire me 3 to 6 months after their injuries because they can no longer take the emotional distress caused by L&I. L&I fights workers every step of the way and when workers have had enough they hire me. It becomes my job to recover the benefits my clients deserve under the law.