Can I Sue My Employer for L&I Claims?

November 27, 2023


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In most cases, Washington State law says that a worker cannot sue his or her employer—or co-worker—for a job injury covered by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). Let’s break down how the law works and what you can claim.

Seattle L&I attorneys Tim Emery and Patrick Reddy of Emery Reddy walking in front of the Seattle Courthouse

What Qualifies As An L&I Claim?

L&I, or your self-insured employer, can approve your claim if your doctor certifies that you were injured at work or have an occupational illness. If your claim is accepted by L&I, you will receive certain L&I benefits. Some of the benefits to which you may be entitled are medical care, wage replacement (time-loss), vocational rehabilitation, and L&I disability pensions for the most severely injured individuals. However, due to the bureaucratic nature of the claims process, many cases get bogged down in red tape, paperwork, and technicalities. An L&I claim could be denied for almost any reason including the following:

  • The injury is considered “preexisting.”
  • The injury is determined to have occurred outside of work.
  • The injury occurred in a parking lot, which means it is not covered.
  • If the injury is a mental health condition, it is often denied due to a lack of medical documentation.
  • An Independent Medical Exam (IME) diagnosis that determines the injury is not as bad as claimed, or non-existent.

Can You Sue L&I?

You cannot sue L&I, even if you are unhappy with how they handle your claim.

Washington State workers injured on the job cannot sue their employer for negligence, instead, they must file a workers’ compensation claim with L&I. This is why L&I attorneys refer to workers’ compensation as a “no-fault system.”

So, what can you do? If your L&I claim is denied, your only option is to appeal the decision. The time frame to appeal is limited, so you will want to enlist the help of a skilled L&I attorney to help you navigate that process.

Are There Any Circumstances Under Which I Can Sue My Employer?

While you can’t normally sue your employer for a work injury, there is an exception to this rule under Washington State law.

Negligent Act Vs. Intentional Act

You cannot sue your employer for a negligent act. If you are hurt on the job due to employer negligence you should file an L&I claim.

You may be able to sue your employer under “Action against employer for intentional injury” RCW 51.24.020, however, these claims are not easy—the legal code requires that:

  • An employer had certain knowledge that the worker would sustain an injury.
  • The employer willfully disregarded that knowledge by taking no action and providing no warning of the hazard.

This means that you can only sue your employer for a work-related injury if you can prove that they knew you would get hurt and chose to do nothing about it.

Can You Be Fired While On L&I?

Unfortunately, yes, you can be fired while you are away from work during the L&I claim process. But very importantly, you cannot be fired for opening an L&I claim, or for any other discriminatory reason. Contact Emery | Reddy, PLLC employment attorneys immediately if you’ve been fired or mistreated for opening an L&I claim.

paul Cipriani at the emery reddy offices in seattle

Your L&I Claim Is Worth More If You Also Have An Employment Law Claim

A significant number of L&I workers’ compensation claims often involve additional legal claims such as employment law or third-party claims. Many people file their claims without seeking representation from an L&I attorney and thus never discover that in addition to their L&I claim, they may be missing out on the ability to file an employment law claim or a third-party claim. Pursuing additional legal action has the potential to significantly increase a claim’s overall compensation.

What Is An Employment Law Claim?

Many injured workers find that their employer has taken, or plans to take, adverse action against them because they filed an L&I claim or they are out of work. You can file a lawsuit against your employer for several reasons, including retaliation, wrongful termination, disability discrimination, or unpaid wages. An L&I attorney who is experienced in both L&I workers’ compensation law and employment law can help you with your L&I claim while simultaneously filing a federal or state law claim for the violation of workers’ rights by your employer.

What Is A Third-Party Claim?

A third-party claim is one in which someone other than your employer or co-worker is responsible for your injury. If you have been injured on the job due to someone else’s actions or negligence, you may be entitled to additional compensation through a third-party claim, which combines your L&I claim with a personal injury claim using the same facts.

Unlike workers’ compensation payments, there is no limit to the amount of compensation an injured worker may seek in third-party damages.

Who Is At Fault For A Workplace Injury?

L&I is a no-fault system, ensuring compensation for any workplace injury. However, if a third party is involved in causing the injury, you may be able to pursue legal action against them for additional compensation under third-party claims.

How Do I Know If I Have A Case?

The bottom line is that anyone who isn’t familiar with L&I claims should seek the input of experienced L&I attorneys who are.

After years of helping injured workers, Emery | Reddy has recovered millions for our clients. Our team of L&I attorneys is experienced in litigating L&I claims, injury law claims, and employment violations. We understand how to leverage each claim in state (or federal) court and before the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals to maximize the value of all of your claims.

emery reddy attorney Karolina s. Arthur at her desk in the emery reddy offices

Emery | Reddy Can Help You With Your L&I Claim

Emery | Reddy is the only law firm in Washington State that is equipped to provide comprehensive representation on your case from every angle. We thoroughly assess every case to determine if our clients have additional claims, and at times this can extend far beyond the underlying workers’ compensation claim.

If you have been injured in the workplace, call Emery | Reddy today to speak with our legal team for a free case review. Please remember to have your L&I claim number readily available.

Want More Information?

L&I Claim Process

Navigating an L&I claim can be extremely complex and time-consuming, even when you’re not the injured or sick party. Follow these steps to ensure that your L&I claim is closed quickly and in your best interests.


The L&I workers’ compensation process is anything but straightforward. Find out the answers to your L&I workers’ comp questions today.

L&I Claim Value

To determine the value of your L&I award you first need to understand the different types of workers’ compensation offered in Washington State.

Meet The Team

The L&I attorneys at Emery | Reddy are passionate about helping workers with L&I claims and employment law issues. We Help Workers®: it’s our motto and it’s what drives us every day.

We know how L&I and big companies think, and we understand the tactics they use. Our labor and industries attorneys use that knowledge coupled with over two decades of experience to help our clients get access to the L&I benefits to which they are legally entitled and hold employers accountable when they break the law.

If you’re struggling with an L&I claim, injury, or legal issue at work, please call us and see how Emery | Reddy can help you today.

emery reddy attorney tim emery headshot
Timothy W. Emery
emery reddy attorney patrick reddy headshot
Patrick B. Reddy
Emery reddy attorney karolina s. athur headshot
Karolina S. Arthur
Emery reddy attorney paul cipriani junior headshot
Paul Cipriani Jr.

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