Created to protect employees and their families from financial hardship due to disabling work-related injuries, workers’ compensation may no longer provide Washington employees with adequate protection due to three controversial bills that recently passed through the Washington State Senate.
Here is a brief summary of the workers’ compensation bills recently passed in February 2013 by the Washington State Senate:
- Senate Bill 5112 – Senate Bill 5112 will allow employers to assess the degree of an employee’s injuries to determine whether the employee is able to return work. Currently in Washington, an objective third party vocational counselor determines an injured employee’s ability to return to work. Those opposed to the bill state that having the assessment performed by the employer would deprive employees of an objective and fair assessment of their ability to work. They fear that under the new bill, injured employees could be moved through rehabilitation too quickly, in effect forcing them back to work prematurely or risk losing their workers’ compensation benefits.
- Senate Bill 5127 – This bill will lower the age at which injured workers can enter into structured settlement agreements from the current age of 55 to 40. While bill proponents believe this will benefit injured workers by allowing them to take a settlement at a younger age, opponents of the bill claim that at the age of 40, it would be difficult to determine the long-term expenses resulting from a serious injury.
- Senate Bill 5128 – Under this bill, injured workers will have the option to accept a lump sum cash settlement for medical benefits and income replacement rather than receiving ongoing workers’ compensation benefit payments. As with Senate Bill 2127, opponents of this bill believe it could deprive injured employees of benefits if the lump sum payment does not adequately cover unanticipated future expenses. Those who favor the bill believe it will save the state money and reduce disability premiums for employers.
Given the recent passage of these workers’ compensation bills, it is more important than ever to consult an experienced Washington workers’ compensation lawyer before filing a claim. If you have suffered an on the job injury in Seattle, Bellevue, Everett, Tacoma or elsewhere in Washington state, contact Phillips Law Firm at 1-800-708-6000 for a free evaluation of your case. Our Washington workers’ compensation attorneys are up-to-date on the recent Washington workers’ compensation reform and can help you obtain maximum benefits for your work-related injuries.