When To Hire A Workers’ Comp Lawyer
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 can feel 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. Now is the time to hire a workers’ comp lawyer. The experienced Seattle L&I attorneys at Emery | Reddy, PLLC will be your advocate and will help 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 L&I claim is accepted and you get the L&I benefits to which you are entitled for your injury.
Should I Hire An L&I Attorney?
If your L&I claim has any of the following factors, you should strongly consider partnering with an experienced L&I attorney.
Your Injury Causes Depression
Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues aren’t always taken seriously by employers, insurers, or even Independent Medical Examination (IME) doctors. Society still often discriminates against people who suffer from mental health conditions, however, 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 Emery | Reddy can help you get it. A good L&I attorney will fight to get the L&I benefits that you deserve, including compensation for unseen injuries like depression, anxiety, and burnout.
The Self-Insured Employer Is Causing Issues
Self-insured employers are less common than companies covered by L&I insurance, but it’s popular among larger corporations. Self-insured policies allow the company to save money, so these employers must be able to pass certification requirements from L&I to prove that they can take on the risk of covering self-insurance workers’ compensation claims.
This also means these employers hire third-party firms—instead of using L&I—to evaluate workers’ compensation claims, which can cause endless headaches for injured workers.
At Emery | Reddy, we believe that insurance companies should make your life as easy as possible and be helpful during this challenging time. Unfortunately, that’s 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 denied. 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 a Seattle L&I attorney to see if there’s a way to reopen the claim and increase your compensation. Even better, start working with an L&I 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
An L&I disability pension is a special category of pension only awarded to the most severely injured workers. If you are eligible for a disability pension, you will receive a non-taxable payment every month for the rest of your life.
Under Washington law (WAC 296-14-150), gainful employment is defined as a regular occupation (in any position) for income, salary, or wages. If your doctor or vocational counselor says that you cannot ever work again because of a job-related injury or illness, you may be entitled to Washington State Labor and Industries (L&I) pension benefits.
It’s not easy to win an L&I disability pension—you must be committed to the process. As these lifetime benefits are so valuable, the system is set up to derail your claim at every step along the way.
The claims process involves complicated bureaucratic hurdles and red tape, along with consultations with Claims Managers, employers, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors, and independent medical examiners who do not always have your best interests in mind. These parties have blocked many workers before you and will try to stop you from securing an L&I disability pension. An experienced L&I attorney with a proven track record of avoiding those traps is your best bet for successfully navigating the system.
Your Injury Gets Miscategorized During Your Independent Medical Exam
An Independent Medical Exam (IME) is a patient interview and evaluation requested by L&I or a self-insured employer to review your medical history and the details of your accident and to establish finding, opinions, and conclusions about your physical condition. IMEs are conducted by approved L&I providers and as such, it is important to note that they are not always on your side.
This doctor will also rate your injury and its severity to determine your level of impairment as part of your claim and send the information to your employer, L&I, and your primary doctor. An IME is not a medical treatment appointment. It should be considered more of an evaluation where the L&I-approved doctor gathers all critical information about your injury and how you are currently healing so they can provide a comprehensive rating in accordance with the L&I PPD Awards Charts.
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, 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.
Additionally, 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 L&I will issue documents at 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 problems later.
Unfortunately, correcting mistakes in L&I paperwork isn’t as simple as using an eraser or asking for a revision. You’ll need an L&I attorney to appeal and rectify the mistakes.
You’re Unable To Obtain Important Information Or Documents From Your Employer
To prove your L&I 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 hiring a Seattle L&I attorney is that they can keep the pressure on your employer and all other interested parties to ensure a timely award or settlement. There are still ample opportunities for those parties to stall and take their time, but having an L&I attorney in your corner who aggressively fights on your behalf for a timely settlement can shave months off of your L&I 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 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, consider hiring 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 hire a Seattle L&I 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 claim 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 L&I attorney as soon as possible 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 a Seattle L&I attorney, you do not sell yourself short. You should consult with an L&I attorney who also does employment 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 alone rather than 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 who 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 L&I 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 to help you through the process and get your award or settlement.
It’s always advantageous to partner with an L&I attorney, but it’s essential to do so when a PPD award 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 award.
You Feel Worn Down And Hopeless
Everybody knows that hiring an L&I 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.
If you are feeling worn down, hopeless, or depressed, it’s time to partner with a Seattle L&I 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 who 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. The compassionate L&I attorneys at Emery | Reddy genuinely care about your physical and mental health. Our goal is to help you get the benefits to which you are entitled and 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 vocational rehabilitation. If you are eligible for vocational rehabilitation after workers’ comp, the process will be coordinated by L&I and sometimes your self-insured employer. It is vital to have an experienced L&I attorney helping you through the L&I claim process, especially if you are considering job retraining.
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.
Emery | Reddy Can Help You With Your L&I Claim
Emery | Reddy, PLLC is the only law firm in Washington State that is equipped to provide comprehensive representation on your case from every angle. Our Seattle L&I attorneys 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?
To determine the value of your L&I claim you first need to understand the different types of L&I awards offered in Washington State.
The L&I workers’ compensation process is anything but straightforward. Find out the answers to your L&I workers’ comp questions today.
Self-insured employers account for one-third of workers’ compensation in Washington State, and they provide benefits directly to injured workers.
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.