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Washington legislators seek makeover of workers’ comp laws governing medical exams

Vaguely-worded workers’ compensation laws can sometimes be as detrimental to injured employees as no protections at all. Fortunately, laws can be changed. 

Senate bill 6440, introduced in January, seeks to rein in RCW 51.32.110, a law that gives self-insured employers and Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) broad powers to make demand medical exams during the workers’ compensation claims process. The law reads as follows:

 … “if requested by the department or self-insurer, submit himself or herself for medical examination, at a time and from time to time, at a place reasonably convenient for the worker and as may be provided by the rules of the department.”

SB 6440 recommends striking the phrases “at a time and from time to time” and “as may be provided by the rules of the department,” while at the same time limiting any required exam to a “new medical issue.”

The revised would would read as follows:

… “if requested by the department or self-insurer, submit himself or herself for medical examination for a new medical issue, at a place reasonably convenient for the worker.”

In effect, the new language would limit the ability of self-insured employers and L&I to order medical exams. That, in turn, could protect workers from the consequences of refusing to submit to a medical exam, such as having their claim suspended and losing their benefits.

The bill also takes aim at the law’s no-show fees for workers who give at least five days’ notice that they can’t attend a medical exam.

Targeting another law, RCW 51.36.070, the bill proposes giving workers a range of new options if ordered to submit to a medical exam, including the right to resolve any medical issues with a specialist prior to the exam, as well as the right to audio or video record the exam and have one person of the worker’s choosing present during the exam.

The Senate passed SB 6440 in a 45-2 vote. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives and the House Labor & Workplace Standards Committee.

Emery Reddy helps workers. Call us at if you have a workers’ comp or other employment law claim. You won’t get better advice.

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