On the job injuries unfortunately happen all of the time in Washington. If you have been injured on the job while working in Washington State, please know that you may be able to receive benefits for any injuries sustained.

These benefits are commonly referred to as workers’ compensation benefits. The specific benefits may include payment of medical treatment, lost wages, compensation for impairment, and even a lifetime pension (if applicable). The tricky part in receiving these benefits, however, is in knowing exactly how to file for them. The following answers some of the most common questions in terms of filing for workers’ compensation benefits.

How Does the Filing Process Work (in General)?

The process begins with a work-related injury or the diagnosis of an occupational disease.  If an employee sustains a work-related injury, they should immediately take two vital actions.  The order of these actions depends on the need for immediate medical care.  If the injury does not require emergency treatment, the employee should let their employer know that they were injured.  Most employers will have an injured employee complete an accident report; this will document the events leading up the accident.  The employee should carefully review this document for accuracy, especially if they are asked to sign it.

An injured employee should also immediately visit a physician to diagnose and treat the injury. The injured employee is free to choose their own provider, so long as the provider has been approved by the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I).  The employee should let their provider know that their injury occurred in the workplace.  The provider will then complete an initial report of accident and submit this report to L&I.  An injured employee must file their workers’ compensation claim within one year of the alleged injury; or, in the case of an occupational disease, within two years from the time they are diagnosed with a work-related illness.

These actions should result in L&I receiving proper documentation of an industrial injury or occupational disease.  A determination will be made as to whether or not a claim is allowed, but in the interim, an employee should be entitled to receive treatment and/or timeloss on a provisional basis.  If a claim is allowed by L&I, then an injured employee is entitled to benefits under the law.  However, if the claim is rejected, benefits are not available unless a protest or appeal is successful.

How to Protest or Appeal a Workers’ Compensation Denial?

If a claim is denied, the order denying benefits must include the reasons for denial and the deadline to file a protest or appeal.  The first recourse for an injured employee is to protest the unfavorable decision with L&I.  L&I will review the claim again, along with any additional documentation provided.  This review will determine whether the initial order was correct.  After review, if the claim remains denied, then an appeal may be made to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals (BIIA).

If the BIIA grants appeal, an Industrial Appeals Judge will conduct a hearing (similar to a legal trial) in order to determine if the initial denial should be upheld.  If the Board affirms the denial, then other remedies may still be available.  These include appealing the case to a three-member panel of judges at the BIIA or a Superior Court trial.

Is a Washington Workers’ Compensation Attorney Necessary for Filing a Claim?

The quick answer is that an attorney is not necessary but is typically preferred. Employees can definitely choose to file a workers’ compensation claim on their own. However, there are many benefits for seeking the assistance of an experienced Washington workers’ compensation attorney.

What are these benefits? Well, an experienced attorney will understand the system and will have knowledge of what immediate actions need to take place. Further, an experienced attorney will be able to recognize any difficulties in obtaining benefits and can act and advise in accordance with these difficulties. In addition, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney will be able to argue on an employee’s behalf, protect the employee’s best interests, and ensure that all necessary filing timelines are met. Finally, an attorney is invaluable in terms of providing a successful result on appeal if an initial claim is denied.

The Phillips Law Firm is here to Help

Our firm has years of experience in assisting injured parties capture their L&I benefits. If your employer is not following through with their obligations or your legitimate L&I claim is denied we can help you get you the compensation you deserve. Our workers’ compensation legal team is tireless in their efforts and demanding on the system.

We understand the entire process of filing a workers’ compensation claim can be archaic and complex. We are here to answer your questions and help simplify the process. Simply contact us today and let us assist in healing your injuries.