Injured Washington State Workers
Navigating the Worker’s Compensation and L&I System
The procedures for navigating Workers’ Compensation and L&I in Washington State can be overwhelming. Injured workers face a highly bureaucratic system involving hundreds of L&I regulations and forms, and thousands of administrators who are themselves burdened by the complicated demands of the process. Becoming lost in the details of
Workers’ Compensation statutes can have adverse effects on your personal recovery and financial compensation. The Seattle Workers’ Compensation attorneys of Emery Reddy can provide you with expertise at every step of the way, and help you receive the most from your L&I claim.
The Foundations of Workers’ Compensation
The concept of Workers’ Compensation emerged in Germany during the industrial revolution of the early 1800s. Newly mechanized factories—along with workplaces like mines and railroad sites—presented significant danger to laborers. As injuries and death increased, workers’ advocates fought for improved conditions, rights, and basic workers’ compensation legislation.
This worker-protection program later emerged in other countries across Europe, eventually finding its way to the United States. By the early decades of the 20th century, almost all American states had established some form of Workers’ Compensation. The federal government likewise adopted the practice to cover most federal employees.
American workers and employers have come to depend on our Workers’ Compensation system to manage incidents involving workplace injuries and disease, and to provide workers with benefits covering injury-related expenses.
Before the advent of Workers’ Compensation in the U.S., our legal system often failed to protect workers from the consequences of injury and illness—even as the American workplace was becoming increasingly industrialized and dangerous. Workers seldom had the resources to bring lawsuits against employers whose negligence contributed to their injuries, and even those who did pursue legal action often found their claims defeated by a standard defense strategy: employers would claim that the injured worker or a co-worker was responsible for an accident, or that the worker had assumed the risk of injury simply by accepting employment.
Learn more about the history of the Worker’s Compensation System at the U.S. Department of Labor site.
The Philosophy of Workers’ Compensation
The philosophy behind Workers’ Compensation legislation is to make the program’s benefits the exclusive remedy for workers injured in the course of their employment. Compensation is to be rewarded regardless of fault, while workers relinquish the right to sue employers for injuries suffered on the job. The no-fault, automatic monetary compensation for workers generally covers lost wages and medical expenses, but can include additional benefits as well. Employers likewise benefit from the Workers’ Compensation system since it relieves them from the prospect of defending against costly and disruptive lawsuits.
Under state law, all employers are required to carry Workers’ Compensation insurance, to self-insure or to pay into state-run Workers’ Compensation funds. (See the Employer’s Guide to Washington State Worker’s Compensation.) The underlying idea of Workers’ Compensation is that society as a whole will offset these costs to the employer by ultimately paying more for goods and services; meanwhile, the Workers’ Compensation system creates an incentive for employers to develop safer workplaces to decrease insurance costs.
For help with your work-injury claim, contact an experienced Seattle Workers' Compensation attorney for a free consultation.
Speak directly with an attorney: (206) 442-9106
Workers’ Compensation and Direct Lawsuits Against Employers
In the majority of workplace injury cases, Workers’ Compensation constitutes the sole legal remedy, and workers cannot bring suits against their employers or co-workers. Although Workers’ Compensation awards are generally smaller than those resulting from successful lawsuits, they carry certain advantages since they free workers from the prospect of fighting long legal battles without financial support; additionally, the injured party is relieved from the uncertain final outcomes of a lawsuit.
Most states, however, offer some exceptions to these terms: for example, if you are injured by the intentional action of an employer, you may be able to seek damages in addition to Workers’ Compensation benefits. An intentional injury on the part of an employer may include assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress or exposure of workers to known hazardous conditions.
Workers may also bring a lawsuit against employers for illegal actions that fall outside the category of traditional workplace injuries, such as NEED PAGE DISCRIMINATION.HTML discrimination, NEED PAGE TERMINATION.HTML wrongful termination or NEED PAGE SEXUAL-HARASSMENT.HTML sexual harassment. Learn more about how Emery Reddy’s employment attorneys can help you with these workplace disputes.
Speak directly with a Seattle attorney: (206) 442-9106
Injured workers may also be eligible to seek damages through a third party claim. A third party may be a doctor whose negligent treatment caused a work-injury to worsen, the manufacturer of a defective product responsible for an injury, or a landlord who failed to attend to unsafe property conditions on a job site.
If you believe that a third party is responsible for your workplace injury or illness, an experienced Seattle-Area Workers’ Compensation attorney can help you assess your options and determine whether you can bring a lawsuit in addition to pursuing Workers’ Compensation benefits. Click here to learn more about NEED ON-THE-JOB.HTM third-party liability claims.
Unlawful Employer Retaliation
While employers are required by Washington State law to comply with Worker’s 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, which may include firing an employee for filing a Workers’ Compensation claim; demoting or failing to promote a worker who exercises his or her Workers’ Compensation rights; giving an unjustifiably poor performance review or negative employment reference; reassigning, reclassifying or transferring a worker; responding with threats or intimidation in the workplace; obstructing the Workers’ Compensation claims process; or taking adverse action against employment benefits or terms of employment as a result of the worker filing an injury claim. Learn more about Workers’ Compensation Discrimination through Washington State’s Department of Labor and Industry.
If your employer has taken retaliatory action against you for pursuing your Workers’ Compensation rights, the employer has violated of the law. The Worker’s Compensation lawyers of Emery Reddy can provide you with counsel and representation, protect your rights, and help maximize the amount of your award in an unlawful workplace retaliation suit.
For help with your work-injury claim, contact one of Emery Reddy’s Seattle Workers' Compensation lawyers for a free consultation.
Speak directly with an attorney: (206) 442-9106
Workers’ Compensation and Death Benefits
When job-related injuries and illnesses result in a worker’s death, family members and dependents may be entitled to receive death benefits through the state’s Workers’ Compensation system. If you are the dependent or family member of someone who died from an injury or illness caused by his or her employment, the Seattle Workers’ Compensation attorneys of Emery Reddy can help you secure your rightful benefits. Read the Declaration of Entitlement for Dependent of Deceased Worker Benefits Under Industrial Insurance.
Benefits to dependents and members of the deceased’s family or household provide financial support for those whose livelihoods are most significantly impacted by the worker’s death. In many cases, family members such as children and spouses are presumed to be dependent on the deceased worker’s income without needing to provide proof; yet when a marital relationship has been severed (such as a voluntary separation with financial independence), the surviving spouse may not be considered dependent. In addition, other relationships may or may not be eligible for Workers’ Compensation death benefits, such as unmarried cohabiting partners, stepchildren or stepparents, in-laws, unrelated persons who were members of the deceased worker’s households, and others with some form of financial dependence. Speak with a Seattle Workers’ Compensation lawyer at Emery Reddy to assess your eligibility and options.
Amount and Duration of Death Benefits
Beneficiaries receive awards for both funeral/burial expenses and for a percentage of the deceased worker’s weekly wages. The length of time over which death benefits are paid varies according to circumstance: a surviving spouse may receive benefits up to his or her own death, until remarriage, or until the establishment of another domestic partnership; children generally receive benefits until they reach legal maturity.
File a form for survivor benefits through Washington State’s Department of Labor & Industry.
In order to qualify for the right to death benefits, the work-related death must occur within a particular period of time following the initial work injury. In addition, while job-related injuries or disease must be the primary cause of death, they may not have to be the exclusive cause if they have significantly contributed to the worker’s death.
Learn more about L&I benefits for dependents of a deceased worker.
If you are the child, spouse, dependent or other household member of someone who died from a work-related injury or disease, you may be eligible for death benefits under the Workers’ Compensation system. An experienced Seattle Workers' Compensation lawyer at Emery Reddy can provide you with legal advice and guidance in the application process.
For a free consultation, we invite you to contact a Seattle personal injury attorney directly by phone, or request a meeting below on our client scheduling calendar.