The fatal crane collapse in April 2019 is still fresh in the minds of many Seattle residents. Just weeks later, Dallas residents were shocked by a similar fatal crane collapse1. As investigations continue, some reports have surfaced citing common practices that may compromise crane safety and stability.

The Seattle Times describes a 2012 crane collapse where bolts were removed early in preparation for dismantling and removal. This crane was also located near Dallas, Texas. The Seattle Times goes further by saying:

“Several crane experts, after closely examining photos and videos of the crash, said they believe pins were removed early. And, they say, it’s a practice that has become common in the industry — a way to save time during disassembly — despite the safety risks they say it brings.” 2

These experts have also pointed out why removing pins early is an increasingly common practice. Removing pins early speeds up the disassembly process, which in turn saves money.

While the investigations are still ongoing, Labor and Industries has closed its investigation into the company that employed the crane operator clearing them of any violations. L&I is still investigating other companies3.

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Many injuries take place in the workplace as a result of an employer or a co-worker.  However, injuries can also result from other persons or entities.  These injuries are said to result from a “third party.”

If you have been injured at work from a third party, you may be entitled to compensation via a “third party claim.”  This is a claim that is filed with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).  The following offers further insight into third party claims.  As always, Phillips Law Firm is here to make sure you understand your legal rights.

Third Party Injuries 101

Let’s start things off by considering some basic components involving third party claims.  Third party claims may arise after a worker is injured on the job as a result of a person or thing that is not an employer or co-worker.  As briefly mentioned above, these non-employer/co-workers are legally referred to as “third parties.”

The L&I website provides several examples of a “third party.”  Some of these examples include:

  • A driver of an automobile that hits a worker (while the worker is engaged in the normal course of his business).
  • The manufacturer of a defective product that injures a worker.
  • A property owner who fails to properly maintain a safe workplace.
  • An independent contractor whose negligence on a job site causes a worker’s injury.

Some people may think that even if a third party causes a worker’s injury, the worker could still try and sue his employer to recover compensation for any damages.  However, this is not the case.  Workers in Washington can’t sue their employers (or even co-workers) for injuries resulting from a workplace injury or occupational disease.

But, if these injuries resulted from a third party, Washington law requires that this third party be asked to pay for the injured worker’s medical treatment and other certain expenses.  The way a worker tries to impose this responsibility on a third party is by filing a third party claim with L&I.  The claim process essentially begins with a “Third Party Election Form.”

What is a Third Party Election Form?

If an injured worker’s physician certifies that the worker’s injury may have been caused by a third party, L&I will send the worker a “Third Party Election Form.”  The injured worker is then responsible for completing the form.  Once the form is completed and submitted with L&I, the claim process is basically underway.

As a side note, the Third Party Election Form asks several critical questions of a claimant.  Some of these include whether the injured worker:

  1. Wishes to take legal action himself.
  2. Wishes not to take legal action himself.
  3. Believes a third party is responsible for his injuries.

The answers to these questions may have a great impact on the manner in which a claim is received and processed.  For any injured worker that is in the process of completing the Third Party Election Form, it’s in your best interests to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney prior to submitting this form.  An attorney will help ensure that you are properly advised on your third party rights.  An attorney will also be able to provide further details on the entire claims process.

How Much Money Will an Injured Worker Receive in a Third Party Claim?

The answer to this question involves a few steps.

  • Step 1:  Attorneys in a third party claim are first paid for their reasonable fees and costs.
  • Step 2:  The injured worker then receives 25% of the net recovery settled upon.
  • Step 3:  L&I is then reimbursed for any benefits paid, less its proportionate share of fees and costs.
  • Step 4:  Any remaining balance is paid to the injured worker.

These steps simply show the process used in determining how much an injured worker will receive.  The actual amount of money an injured worker may collect entirely depends on the nature of the claim and the specific facts involved.

Contact Phillips Law Firm for Assistance

Third party workers’ compensation claims follow a relatively strict process in terms of how actual claims are handled.  The claims process will also vary from case to case simply because the facts of every claim will differ.  Yes, individuals could choose to handle these claims on their own.  However, it’s not the preferred path.

The preferred route is to contact our firm so that one of our experienced workers’ compensation attorneys can answer all of your questions.  Our attorneys will also fully advise you of your third party rights.  The attorneys at Phillips Law Firm are well versed and experienced in third party claims.  Simply contact them today and let them help!


An independent medical examination, or IME, is often associated with workers’ compensation claims.  The examination itself is a medical evaluation conducted to determine the status of a worker’s medical condition.  IMEs can undoubtedly raise several questions for those who have filed a workers’ compensation claim.  Let’s clarify matters by taking a closer look at IME basics.

The Basics of the Basics

If a person has been injured in the workplace, and has filed a workers’ compensation claim, questions may arise regarding the worker’s medical condition, status, or improvements.  These questions are often raised by the Washington State Department of Labor & Injuries (L&I) or by self-insured employers.  During the course of an IME, an IME physician seeks to answer these questions.  More specifically, an IME doctor conducts an examination to answer whether a worker’s claim-related medical condition has reached maximum medical improvement, whether any further treatment is necessary, whether there are any work restrictions, and whether any permanent impairments remain.

IMEs are most often requested to generate information.  This information is predominantly used by claims managers that wish to: close a claim, end medical treatment, or filter out specifics on a given medical condition.  These claim managers will ultimately use IME results to help “manage” a worker’s injury claim.

Some caution should be made here.  Please note that IME physicians are not an injured person’s treating physician.  They are physicians paid by L&I and self-insured employers to produce a report with certain intended results.  IMEs are not designed to assist injured workers with their claims or ongoing treatment.

What Happens at an IME?

While every IME may differ, some generalities can be made as to what is conducted during these examinations.  For example, during an IME, it’s not uncommon for the IME doctor to:

  • Ask the injured person about his medical and family history
  • Ask about past or current symptoms
  • Perform a physical examination with testing
  • Examine x-rays or lab tests

Once an IME is completed, the physician will then write a report for L&I or the self-insured employer.  The report will detail the IME doctor’s findings and his opinions.  Note that an IME is only a one time examination and its focus is solely on industrially related conditions.

Helpful Tips During IMEs

IMEs are typically designed to weigh in favor of L&I or the self-insured employer.  To help balance matters, a patient undergoing an IME should be aware of a few tips.  Some of the most favorable we often advise to clients are:

Answer Any Questions:  Patients should be encouraged to answer any questions that are asked during an IME.  However, they should answer them clearly and succinctly.  It’s okay for a patient to ramble on, but this should be limited for times when discussing issues with pain or complaints as to physical condition.

Be Nice:  Patients should be nice and courteous during an IME.  Nevertheless, patients should also be warned not to overdo it.  An overly friendly patient could easily displease the doctor performing the IME.

Don’t Minimize or Exaggerate:  Minimizing issues, aches, pains or concerns does not portray an accurate picture of reality.  Exaggerating issues is just as worse as minimizing them.  In fact, physicians performing IMEs are often very attuned to exaggeration behaviors.  It’s okay for a patient to discuss problems with pain, but the patient should understand that he doesn’t have to turn it into “excruciating pain” just for sakes of the IME.

Know the Case:  A patient should know the specifics of his particular case prior to undergoing an IME.  At the least, a patient should know the date of the accident in question, the facts of the accident, the type of treatment he has received and the reasoning for this treatment.  A patient should also be prepared to convey his specific physical complaints.

Honesty is the Best Policy:  Lying or acting will not win points at an IME.  Patients should be truthful throughout.

Phillips is Here to Help

IMEs can definitely confuse and cause stress for injured workers.  Please concentrate on improving your medical status.  Let Phillips Law Firm do the worrying for you.

Our dedicated and passionate firm includes a highly experienced team of workers’ compensation attorneys that know all about IMEs.  They are here to help.  Please contact them today with any IME questions you may have.


Washington workers’ compensation benefits take many forms.  Some of these include: medical benefits, wage replacement and partial disability awards.  But, how do you know which benefit applies to your specific workers’ compensation claim?  The answer will essentially depend on the severity of your injury and whether this injury prevents you from returning to work.  Let’s examine this further by taking a look at several possible workers’ compensation benefits.

Medical Benefits

Once your workers’ compensation claim has been approved, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), or your self-insured employer, will begin to cover medical bills directly related to your injury.  This coverage may continue up until your doctor certifies that your injury has: (1) stabilized; and, (2) reached a point where further recovery is not anticipated.  Coverage may also continue even if you go back to work, provided however, your workers’ compensation claim remains open.

Please note that workers’ compensation cannot pay for the following

  • Conditions not related to a workplace injury or illness;
  • Treatment, such as acupuncture, that is not covered by workers’ compensation; and,
  • Treatment from providers that are not enrolled in L&I’s network.

Wage Replacement

It’s likely that you may miss work as a result of your work related injury.  If so, and provided a doctor certifies that you are unable to work, you may be entitled to “time-loss compensation.”  This is basically a payment for a portion of your lost wages.  The payment is made by L&I or your self-insured employer.

An exception, however, applies to the three days immediately following the date of your injury.  These days represent a waiting period.  Neither L&I, nor, your self-insured employer will pay for lost wages on these days.

Keep in mind that time-loss compensation will not cover the total amount of your lost wages.  This benefit only covers a portion of your lost wages.  The benefit amount is 60 to 75 percent of the wages you were earning at the time of your injury.

Permanent Partial Disability

Some injured on the job may suffer a permanent disability as a result of the injury.  If true to your workers’ compensation claim, you may qualify for a Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) award.  A PPD technically means that you can still work, but your physical ability has been impaired.  In order to qualify for this benefit, your PPD must be rated by a qualified doctor.

Permanent Total Disability

Pensions are available if you have suffered permanent total disability from a work related injury.  More specifically, two types of pensions are available.  The first applies to those cases in which a worker loses (or loses the use of): both legs, both arms, an arm and a leg, or his vision.  In this situation, the worker is eligible for a monthly pension by law, even if he returns to work.

The second type of pension applies to those cases in which a person has suffered such an injury that the injury prevents him from ever becoming gainfully employed.  Whether or not an injury prevents a person from ever becoming gainfully employed is a determination made by L&I.

Prescription Medications

L&I, or your self-insured employer, may pay for prescription medications used to treat a work related injury.  However, as stated on L&I’s website, the prescription medications must be “necessary for treatment of accepted conditions resulting from industrial injuries and occupational diseases on open and allowed workers’ compensation claims.”  Prescriptions for treatment of unrelated conditions, or conditions not accepted under a claim, must be paid for by the injured worker or billed to his private health insurance.

Travel Reimbursement

If you have been injured on the job and travel further than 15 miles to see a health care provider, you may be entitled to reimbursement for some of your travel expenses.  Three requirements must be met, however, to receive this reimbursement.  The requirements are:

  1. The health-care provider is further than 15 miles from your home.
  2. No other closer providers exist that can treat your condition.
  3. The travel reimbursement is pre-authorized by your claim manager.

Let the Phillips Law Firm Help

Understanding the specific benefits that may apply to your workers’ compensation claim can be quite confusing.  Obtaining these benefits can also pose difficulties and involve legal and administrative nuances.  Don’t get overwhelmed.  Worse yet, don’t get denied benefits that you may be entitled to receive.  Our firm has years of experience in assisting clients get the workers’ compensation benefits that they deserve and are entitled to.  Simply contact us today and let us help.


The psychological effects of pursuing workers’ compensation benefits, and the anxiety related to the inability to return to work, even with a short-term disability, can reach far beyond the physical harm that stems from the initial injury. According to the medico legal thesis Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, many employees struggle with depression or emotional detachment related to the changes brought to their lives by an occupational injury or illness. However, the cost is borne by both the injured worker and the employer. Providing mental health services for injured workers is a costly hidden expense of occupational injuries and illnesses.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the Centers for disease Control and Prevention focused more precisely on what should be compensable psychological harm in the form of depression. For the sake of this study, it is important to distinguish between post-injury depression and original compensable depression brought on by a hostile work environment, etc.

Findings related specifically to post-injury depression included that most workers’ compensation plans do not acknowledge that condition as being work-related even if depression was linked to a preceding occupational injury, and has been found to influence a workers’ ability to return to work. Furthermore, the study discovered that after-injury depression costs workers, group health insurers and/or taxpayers at least an extra $8.2 million within a three-month study period.

Researchers concluded that the true costs of occupational injuries and illnesses is underestimated because the $67 billion price tag for treating them does not include less tangible factors such as the effects on a worker’s daily activities or family life. These costs are usually covered by private medical insurance or paid by the workers themselves, as they are not frequently covered by workers’ compensation. However, logic dictates that if a correlation can be shown between occupational injury or illness and subsequent depression, the high costs of treating depression after an occupational injury or illness will be shifted to the workers’ compensation system.

The good news is that much of this type of depression is preventable by reassuring a newly injured claimant who is statistically likely to experience depression, that the employer will not penalize the worker for pursuing workers’ compensation benefits, but instead will take specific action to return the worker to his or her job as quickly as possible.


Employers faced with increased insurance costs because an employee sought their rightful workers’ compensation benefits, may be tempted to retaliate against that employee. While there is no federal law prohibiting workers’ compensation retaliation, most states have laws guarding employees against such retaliation, depending on the facts of your individual case.

Employees who acted in good faith in filing for workers’ compensation benefits or engaging in protected activity are safeguarded against employer retaliation. Although you may file a retaliation claim even if you did not win your underlying workers’ compensation claim, you may not be protected from retaliation if you knowingly filed a false or fraudulent workers’ compensation claim.

In order to be protected, you must have exercised a right granted by the workers’ compensation program. The best way to make sure anti-retaliation laws cover you is to complete and file the necessary claims documents promptly after becoming injured.

In order to win a case of workers’ compensation retaliation in Washington, generally you must be able to prove all four of the following:

• That you were an employee entitled to receive benefits under workers’ compensation law • That you took a protected activity, such as filing a claim for compensation • That you suffered an unfavorable employment action, such as demotion, termination, change of job duties or employment conditions, lowered pay or unwarranted disciplinary actions • That the employer imposed these actions while motivated by your protected activity

Showing “causation”, or that your employer’s actions were caused by your protected activity, is often the most disputed and difficult part of proving your retaliation claim. Most states, including Washington, require that your protected activity be a determinative factor, and not the sole reason for retaliation.

The circumstances of your individual case will determine if you were illegally discriminated against. Other legitimate reasons for disciplinary actions, such as violation of company policy or poor performance reviews, can sometimes play a large role, and can be used by the employer to defend against your claim of retaliation.

Conversely, unlawful retaliation can be inferred from timing, deviation from normal practices, or a pattern of adverse actions against employees who file workers’ compensation claims.

If you have filed a workers’ compensation claim and suffered retaliation for doing so, you may have a legitimate workers’ compensation retaliation claim. Time limits may apply, and waiting may cost you your rights to take action against your employer.


The January Issue of Spine, a leading source of information and business intelligence for workers in the health care industry, reports on a study that shows surgery provides more effective results than nonsurgical treatments for most patients with back pain related to a herniated disk. However, the same is not true for patient’s receiving workers’ compensation for work-related injuries.

No Better Results with Surgery for Workers’ Comp Patients

Researchers in the study examined data on 924 patients with sciatica, which is leg and low back pain related to a herniated intervertebral disk. The researchers were looking for possible differences in response to treatment between patients who were and were not receiving workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation patients represented about 12 percent of test subjects.

As part of an indiscriminant trial, patients were instructed to undergo surgical or nonsurgical treatment such as, physical therapy, education/home exercise, and pain-relieving drugs. Results of the trial showed that while both treatments were effective, surgery provided more rapid improvement and better results up to two years after treatment. Patients who were not receiving workers’ compensation showed significant improvement after three months, and remained better after two years. However, the difference between surgical and nonsurgical treatment narrowed over time for the workers’ compensation patients. Near the end of two years, the workers’ compensation patients who had undergone surgery suffered pain and physical dysfunction similar to those who had undergone nonsurgical treatment.

Regardless of workers’ compensation status, the percentage of patients returning to work or placed on disability was comparable with or without surgery.

Sciatica Related to Herniated Disks

Sciatica related to herniated disks is a disabling condition and is a common reason for workers’ compensation claims. Previous studies have indicated that workers’ compensation status may be influential in the outcomes of treatment for herniated disks.

Results from this study show that surgery for herniated disks is not as effective in workers’ compensation patients, and that even though they recover faster initially, the benefits are short-lived. For patients not receiving workers’ compensation, surgery provided long-lasting medical benefits. Even after allowing for other patient characteristics, the difference remained.

The reason for the difference is unclear, and the findings are not meant to imply that workers’ compensation patients should not undergo surgery. That decision should be discussed with your medical provider.


Your employer is not legally allowed to discriminate or retaliate against you for filing a workplace injury claim, saying that you are going to file a claim, or for seeking all of the workers’ compensation benefits to which you are entitled under Washington State law.

Examples of discrimination or retaliation by an employer may include:

  • Firing you or laying you off
  • Demoting you or assigning you to an undesirable shift
  • Denying you a promotion
  • Reducing your wages or benefits
  • Refusing to adjust your job duties to meet the light-duty restrictions ordered by your doctor

However, if the employee has failed to learn and follow safety or health rules, not followed the employer’s policies, or has suffered numerous on-the-job injuries, the above actions may or may not be considered employer discrimination under Washington State law.

Protection from Employer Discrimination

If you are unsure and need to determine whether or not your employer’s actions are considered to be discriminatory, contact an experienced Workers’ Compensation attorney immediately.

If you believe you have been discriminated against after filing a workplace injury claim, you may obtain a complaint form online or at your local L&I office. Complaints are also accepted in written form, although forms are encouraged because they make it clear what pertinent information is needed. You can mail your completed complaint form to: Department of Labor & Industries, P.O. Box 44277, Olympia, WA 98504-4277. Customer service representatives, claim managers, or any representative of the Department of L&I also accepts forms.

How a Workers’ Compensation Attorney Can Help

While employers are required by Washington State to comply with Workers’ Compensation and allow workers to file claims, some employers retaliate against injured employees for pursuing Workers’ Compensation benefits. Workers have the right to bring a lawsuit against employers who engage in forms of illegal retaliatory action. A knowledgeable Seattle workers’ Compensation attorney can help guide you through this process.


Washington State law now allows certain injured workers, their employers, and L&I to permanently settle the non-medical portion of a worker’s comp claim in exchange for an agreed structured payment plan. In most structured settlements, the claim is closed and the worker receives fixed payments over a period of time as laid out in the agreement. Workers who enter into a structured settlement agreement may still receive medical treatment for conditions allowed on their claim. All agreements must be reviewed and approved by the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals.

In a state fund claim, any party can submit a structured settlement application form to the Department of Labor and Industries. The department will then perform an initial review and determine if negotiations should proceed. When deciding whether or not to enter into negotiations for a structured settlement, the department will consider certain non-exclusive factors.

To be eligible, you must be an injured worker who:

  • Is at least 55 years of age, and
  • Has an accepted worker’s compensation claim in Washington, and
  • Had the claim received by L&I or the self-insured employer at least 180 days before the agreement is signed

Beginning January 1, 2015, the age requirement drops to 53, and will drop further to 50 effective January 1, 2016. Currently, L&I is not considering settlements for claims that are closed, and there is no provision for benefits of survivors of injured workers.

Workers Who Could benefit from a Structured Settlement

A structured settlement could best benefit those workers who have a source of income other than L&I benefits, or those who wish to return to work part-time. Workers who are not interested in re-training for another occupation, or who are eligible now, or soon will be eligible, for any retirement benefits they have earned including, Social Security or a union pension.

How an Attorney Can Help

Structured settlements for worker’s compensation involve complex legal procedures, and can have a significant financial impact on injured workers as well as their families. It is important for workers and employers to be informed of their rights and how a settlement may impact their future livelihoods. Contact us today and let one of our knowledgeable attorneys answer any questions you may have regarding a structured settlement plan for your eligible worker’s compensation claim.


Every decision reached by L&I regarding a worker’s compensation claim requires the use of judgment. If you do not agree with the decision, it may help to first speak with your claim manager; however, you may protest to L&I if you believe their decision was wrong. You may also appeal directly to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals without first protesting to L&I. You are not required to have an attorney for the protest or appeal; however, an experienced legal counsel could be beneficial during this complex process.

Protest to L&I

If you intend to protest to L&I, you must send it, in writing, within sixty days of receiving their decision. As clearly as you can, explain in detail why you believe the decision was unfair, and supply any additional information you think could assist them in their new evaluation. Your claim will be reviewed and L&I will send you a written decision in response to your protest. If you disagree with this decision you may appeal to the Board.

Appeal to the Board after Protest to L&I

Your appeal to the Board must be sent within sixty days of receiving L&I’s decision. Independently of L&I, the Board conducts hearings on claim issues that cannot be otherwise settled to the satisfaction of you, your employer or the department. The Board will issue a written decision regarding your case after personal arguments and testimony have been taken. If you are dissatisfied with the Board’s decision, you may appeal to a Washington State Superior Court.

How a Worker’s Compensation Lawyer Can Help

While the assistance of an attorney is not required for either the protest or appeal process, these are both complex and potentially confusing ordeals. If you are dissatisfied with L&I’s decision regarding your worker’s compensation claim, contact us today and let us assist you in getting the compensation you have worked hard for.