Washington Workers’ Comp Benefits See Record Increase

Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/Darylann Elmi

Washington state workers’ compensation benefits increased by a record 10 percent at the start of July following the largest year-over-year increase in the average wage in Washington history, according to to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I).

The state’s average annual wage grew 10.1% to $76,741 in 2020. 

Because state law requires that L&I benefits be adjusted each year to reflect fluctuations in Washington’s average wage from the prior calendar year, time-loss and pension benefit payments for most workers injured on or before July 1, 2020 will increase by 10.1% in line with a cost of living adjustment (COLA) of the state’s average wage.

As a result, for 2020, the COLA increased the maximum monthly benefit to $7,674 or 120 percent of the state’s average monthly wage. COLA is also used to calculate unemployment benefits and Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits. 

The record jump in average wages is a result of thousands of lower-paid workers losing their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, while higher-paid workers remained employed. “While it is common for the average wage to rise during recessions, since lower wage workers are more likely to be laid off than higher paid ones, the shift during the pandemic recession was much more dramatic than during the Great Recession,” according to Washington’s Employment Security Department. 

The monthly increase in workers’ comp payouts also applies to pension benefits paid to the relatives of those who died from a work-related accident or disease. For most workers, these increase became effective July 1, 2021.

However, some workers may not be eligible for the most recent COLA, including those who also receive federal Social Security benefits. Workers whose injury date falls between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021 will not receive their first COLA until July 1, 2022.

Emery Reddy helps workers. Call us for advice on your L&I, workers’ compensation or other employment law claim. You won’t get better advice.

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