Sustaining an injury on the job can be devastating. On top of the physical trauma, serious injuries often result in expensive medical bills and taking unpaid time off from work while you recover.
In a perfect world, your employer would bend over backward to make you physically and financially whole again, but in reality, injured employees rarely feel such support. Instead, it feels like the insurance company is trying to pay you as little as possible, independent medical examiners are only there to downplay your injuries, and your employer’s primary concern is to fill your position without regard to the impact on your career.
The good news is that you don’t have to navigate the rapids of workplace injuries on your own. Experienced L&I attorneys like Tim Every can be your advocate with your employer and insurance company, helping you get every penny of compensation you deserve while you focus on getting better and back to work. An L&I attorney will ensure your worker’s compensation claim is accepted and you get the correct benefits for your injury.
Injured at work? Hire an attorney if your claim looks like this
While not every workers’ compensation case requires an attorney, most of them stand to benefit from the guidance of an L&I expert like Emery Reddy. If your L&I claim has any of the following factors, you should strongly consider partnering with an experienced, compassionate attorney.
Your Injury Causes Depression
Depression, burnout, and other mental health issues aren’t taken very seriously by employers, insurers, or even Independent Medical Examination (IME) doctors. As a whole, society still discriminates against people that suffer from mental health conditions, which can affect your rights to proper worker’s compensation, such as a physical injury would get.
You need to know that if you have any mental health issues caused by your workplace, you have the legal right to workers’ compensation. It’s an injury just like any other and deserves the correct medical treatment for recovery.
You deserve compassionate care and treatment, and we can help you get it. A good L&I attorney will have your back to get the workers’ compensation you deserve, including compensation for unseen injuries like depression, anxiety, and burnout.
The Claims Manager Is Causing Issues
Self-insured companies often force you to work with their insurance staff instead of Washington’s L&I department. It may feel like their job is to make your life miserable when filing a claim, hoping that you’ll simply give up and let them keep their money.
At Emery Reddy, we believe that insurance companies should make your life as easy as possible and be helpful during this challenging time. That’s unfortunately not standard practice, so we’re not afraid to be your advocate and hold them to that expectation. That means we’ll handle the hard conversations and keep the pressure on your claims manager all the way to the finish line, ensuring they don’t take any longer to approve your claim than the law allows.
Your Claim Is Rejected
Too many workers give up when their claim is rejected. They think it’s no use to fight for their rights against the government, the insurance company, or their employer. The truth is that many rejected claims are unlawfully dismissed, a problem that can be corrected with a properly filed appeal.
If your claim has already been rejected, it’s not too late. Have your case reviewed by an L&I attorney to see if there’s a way to reopen the claim and increase your compensation. Even better, start working with an attorney before filing your claim to ensure your case isn’t rejected in the first place.
You Don’t Know If You’re Eligible For a Pension
In the case of workers’ compensation in Washington state, you can get either a pension or a lump-sum settlement to cover medical expenses and wage losses. One-time payments are a great way to pay off massive medical bills today, while lifetime pension payments are ideal for injuries that will require long-term treatment and maintenance.
Which options do you qualify for, and which is right for you? The answer to this question depends on your unique situation. In fact, many cases call for both payment options – a lump sum payment to settle medical bills today and a pension to cover lifetime medical expenses.
L&I lawyers will help identify the compensation you qualify for and deserve based on the unique circumstances of your case. We’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work for our clients based on years of experience so that we can provide proven advice based on real experience.
Your Injury Gets Miscategorized
Washington’s L&I laws impose a rating system for injuries. Depending on the rating you receive, the difference in compensation can reach six figures.
In other words, your injury rating can have a massive impact on your financial settlement.
If you find yourself in a situation where the doctor filing your claim diagnoses a severe injury, but the IME doctor downgrades it to a less severe injury with a smaller payout, stop what you’re doing and call an L&I attorney immediately. The initial diagnosis may still be downgraded in the end, but an experienced attorney should be able to arrange another evaluation to hopefully confirm the more severe diagnosis and increase your financial settlement.
On the same wavelength, if you feel like your diagnosis and IME don’t accurately reflect your injury, work with your attorney to obtain a second opinion.
There Are Errors in the L&I Documents
Mistakes happen, and sometimes the L&I department will issue documents with a different rate than was agreed upon in the claim. There could also be mismatches in dates, times, names, or even your employer. You should never accept documents with errors since they can cause major headaches later.
Unfortunately, correcting mistakes in L&I paperwork isn’t as simple as using an eraser or simply asking for a revision. You’ll need an attorney to appeal and rectify the mistakes.
You’re unable to obtain important information or documents from your employer
To prove your claim, you’ll often need to ask your employer for specific documents like work hour reports and phone calls. They’re required by law to send you those documents, but unfortunately, some employers will stall and delay sending you the documents to give you a hard time and prolong the process.
One of the benefits of working with an L&I attorney is that they can keep the pressure on your employer and all other interested parties to ensure a timely settlement. There are still ample opportunities for those parties to stall and take their time, but having an attorney in your corner who aggressively fights on your behalf for a timely settlement can shave months off of your claim approval process.
Your employer is “bribing” you with a promotion or more favorable position
Many employers will “bribe” workers with a desk job or promotion, so they don’t file for the workers’ compensation. They do this to avoid paying higher L&I insurance payments to the state, and unfortunately, the promotion or job placement doesn’t last long enough to deliver long-term value.
In other words, that promotion on the table with a salary increase sure sounds appealing right now, but what happens if you’re demoted or moved to another department in a few years? The increased salary you get for the next few years could pale in comparison to the settlement you’d receive for an L&I claim.
Always remember that workers’ compensation is your right as an injured worker. When you sustain an injury, you should focus on healing instead of getting by with a desk job — or worse, being deceived into back-breaking labor later.
Before you accept any promotion or desk job by your company, tell your employer that you’ll think about the offer. Then, contact an L&I attorney to evaluate how you should handle this job offer before proceeding with your worker’s compensation claim.
You’re harassed by managers or coworkers when you return to work
You have the right to continued employment after an injury. When you’re ready to return to work, you shouldn’t feel threatened or harassed. To put it bluntly, it’s not okay to have your job security or personal aptitude questioned by coworkers and managers.
Whether the harassment occurs before, during, or after your L&I claim, it’s challenging to tie harassment to the L&I case. In such cases, it’s critical to work with an attorney who can assess how to address the harassment in your claim or take further action against your employer in a separate suit. Either way, your employer should be held accountable for allowing a toxic work environment, and you are likely able to sue for additional compensation.
The IME doctor is rude, unfair, or hostile
It’s not uncommon for IME doctors to file unfavorable reports in the L&I process, and many injured workers report that the doctor was rude or even hostile towards them during the IME. Why this happens is a mystery, but it’s a fact that some doctors will complicate your access to workers’ compensation.
If you feel that the doctor was dismissive of your injury, didn’t listen to you, or tried to downplay your injuries, that’s a red flag for problems down the road. You should speak with an attorney ASAP to assess your options about contesting the doctor’s report and getting a second opinion.
There Is a Third-Party Claim
Most people don’t realize that there are often additional claims from a third party that should be responsible for workers’ compensation.
For example, suppose an employee fell off a ladder, and they were not adequately secured. In that case, an attorney could investigate whether there are additional claims for faulty equipment against the ladder manufacturer or the safety devices used to secure the worker.
A good L&I lawyer works to find any and all third-party claims to help you maximize your compensation and settlement amounts. Even if your L&I case doesn’t feel like it merits an attorney, you should at least consult with a personal injury attorney who also does workers’ comp law to assess whether there are other cases worth investigating and pursuing.
Your injury or health condition is not likely to improve
Injured workers who end up with a lifelong disability from their workplace injury usually have the most challenging time making their claim. These claims tend to involve the highest amount of compensation and thus a lot of scrutiny from your employer, IME doctors, and L&I supervisors.
If you’re in a situation where your workplace injury has resulted in a permanent health condition or disability, you should consult with an L&I attorney before starting the claims process. Tackling this kind of case solo vs. with a veteran L&I specialist could mean the difference in hundreds of thousands – or even millions – of dollars in lost compensation.
You’re Struggling to Find Evidence of the Injury
For a successful claim, you’ll need evidence that you sustained your injury in the workplace. Many workers say they don’t have evidence — but the fact is that almost every case has evidence. You just need to know what counts as evidence in an L&I claim. Don’t be worried if you need to ask for help. You are entitled to as much help as possible.
There are many pieces of data you can use as evidence in court. If you’re having difficulty gathering the proper evidence, an L&I attorney can talk through your case and generate a list of options that you can use as evidence to support your claim.
Your Medical Care Is Inadequate
Unfortunately, some medical clinics dismiss their L&I patients due to the extra work that’s often involved with submitting paperwork. They tend to favor patients that are insured or paying out of pocket and prefer not to work with an L&I case that could take months or years to receive payment.
You deserve the same level of treatment as any other patient, and the fact you’re on workers’ compensation shouldn’t affect that. If you believe your medical clinic is treating you unfairly, an L&I attorney can help you hold that medical practice accountable and get the treatment you deserve.
Time Loss Benefits Are Threatened
Your time loss benefits should be paid every two weeks once your doctor confirms your inability to work. These benefits are meant to partially replace your lost wages. If your time-loss benefits are threatened, not paid correctly or on time, or not paid at all, know that’s unacceptable, and you deserve better.
If you’re not already working with an attorney, you should contact an L&I specialist as soon as possible when time loss benefits are missed. It’s relatively easy to rectify, and you should receive back pay for missed payments, but it takes time and understanding to navigate the process.
Your Case Qualifies for a Permanent Partial Disability Settlement
If your on-the-job injury becomes a permanent issue that will continue after recovery, you could be entitled to Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) when you return to work. This can be difficult to navigate, and you deserve to have someone on your side there to help you through the process and get your settlement.
It’s always advantageous to partner with an L&I attorney, but it’s essential to do so when a PPD settlement is on the line. More importantly, it’s critical that you work with an experienced L&I attorney who has successfully helped clients obtain a PPD settlement.
You Feel Worn Down and Hopeless
Everybody knows that hiring an attorney can help you to maximize your financial settlement. But if you talk to a compassionate attorney, you’ll hear another, possibly more important value proposition: we can make the process easier and shoulder the stress so that you can focus on healing and recovery. Sure, money is essential, but it’s hard to put a price on peace of mind when you’re in the hospital or facing a long road to recovery.
If you’re feeling worn down, hopeless or depressed, it’s time to partner with an attorney who can take a load off of your shoulders. Look for L&I attorneys with positive online reviews, and when you find an attorney that looks like a good fit, don’t be afraid to ask personal questions to truly gauge whether they’re the right fit for your unique case. Take it from us when we say that there really are compassionate attorneys out there who genuinely care about your physical and mental health and whose goal isn’t just to get more money in your settlement – but to help you through a truly challenging time in your life.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits?
Most workers in Washington State are covered by L&I and are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Even if your employer says you aren’t covered, there’s a good chance that you still are.
What if the injury is my fault?
Fault doesn’t matter – even if the injury is your fault, you are still entitled to L&I compensation. Employers who contest this simply don’t understand the law. Don’t let your employer bully you into not submitting an L&I claim. If there are any question marks surrounding your claim, schedule a consultation with an L&I attorney to get a professional opinion.
How will I be paid while I’m out of work?
In most cases, you will be paid by check every two weeks. Your L&I compensation will pay time loss for 60-75% of your wages while you’re out of work.
What if I can’t go back to my job?
If it is determined that you cannot return to your old job, you may be eligible for job retraining. If you are eligible for job retraining after workers’ comp, the process will be coordinated by the state L&I department and sometimes your employer. It is vital to have an experienced attorney helping you through the L&I claim process, especially if you are considering job retraining.