On March 14, 1911, Washington enacted the first workers’ compensation system in the country, alongside Kansas.
It was a new concept at the time, giving workers insurance benefits, including payment of lost wages and medical costs as well as protection from coercion by their employers in exchange for the injured worker agreeing not to directly sue the employer.
Washington’s workers’ comp system is unique in that it is almost completely run by the state’s Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). In many other states, private insurers administer most or all workers’ comp benefits.
In Washington, L&I directly administers nearly 80% of all workers’ comp claims filed in the state. The remaining claims are handled by self-insured employers, who are subject to L&I oversight.
Workers’ comp in Washington stands out in other ways as well, according to a report by the nonprofit National Academy of Social Insurance. Washington is one of only 14 jurisdictions that do not exempt agriculture jobs from workers’ comp benefits.
While Washington experienced the biggest percentage increase (34%) of covered wages in the country, it’s one of only three states (Oregon and New Mexico) in which workers fund a portion of workers’ comp benefits through payroll deductions. In all other states, employers are responsible for footing the insurance bill.