If you’ve been injured at work, Washington State law stipulates that you’re entitled to assistance for your injury. That’s why it’s important to do two things if you’ve suffered some kind of injury or accident at work: seek medical help and inform your employer. The medical help is to assure that your injury doesn’t get worse and affect other parts of the body, while informing your employer starts the process of your workers’ compensation claim.
But there’s also a third thing you should do — consult with an L&I attorney. An L&I attorney can help ensure that you receive the just compensation that you deserve, all while protecting you from inadvertently jeopardizing your case or your employment. L&I claims are complicated, and even the most straightforward claim can be riddled with challenges and other roadblocks on the way to a successful resolution. Having a competent L&I attorney on the case can ensure that your claim is processed properly.
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation is an important public service in the state of Washington that covers workers if they’re injured or develop an illness due to their job. And if you’re unable to work as a result of your injury or illness, you can get compensated for a portion or all of your lost wages while you recover at home. Following your recovery, the program also helps coordinate your return to work.
Seek Medical Help
But before you do anything, it’s important to seek medical help. Even if you didn’t suffer a serious injury and you’re nursing a sprain or small cut after a fall or other accident, you’ll need to get that injury treated prior to thinking about your workers’ compensation claim.
All employers in Seattle and throughout the state of Washington are required to provide access to first-aid kits in workspaces, but if you need additional treatment, you’ll need to visit a local emergency room or clinic. Regardless of whether you were seriously injured, sometimes it helps to seek out a medical opinion anyway, and the earlier you do this the better off you’ll be when it comes to your health and your claim.
After reviewing your situation, your medical provider will then help you certify that the injury is work-related (basically that it happened at work), and file a workers’ compensation claim. They may also discuss with you when you can expect to return to work, as well as what kind of continuing treatment you may need, all of which will end up in your case file.
If you need any additional care after the visit, make sure that you follow up with your own doctor or an in-network medical provider, though you’re certainly free to get a medical opinion outside of the network as long as you can get your claim manager to approve it. If you’d like to change providers, you can do that with approval from your claim manager. That said, at this point it’s best to contact an L&I attorney to help you make decisions and to ensure that you’re taking the right steps towards satisfying your workers’ compensation claim.
If, for some reason, your company directs you to their in-house doctor, you may want to decline. Company doctors are often not looking out for your interest and may be paid by the company to help them mitigate workers’ compensation claims, so you should approach any medical assistance from your company with suspicion.
Even if you deny the assistance, your employer can’t retaliate or force you to comply — you have the right to see any doctor you wish, and no one else, including company representatives, needs to be in the room or present when you do so. If you’re dealing with an employer that is trying to force you into a certain type of medical assistance or that is trying to force you to sign paperwork about your claim, please contact an L&I attorney so that they can advise you of the best course of action.
Tell Your Employer
After you’ve gotten the medical help that you need, it’s time to tell your employer. Once you’re safe and out of harm’s way, let your direct supervisor or another worker know that you’ve been injured on the job and that you’ll need to start on your L&I paperwork for your injury in Seattle or elsewhere in Washington State.
Indeed, your employer has to facilitate your eventual return to work, and they can’t do that without completing an L&I claim. In addition to ensuring that you receive prompt medical attention, they’ll provide you with paperwork that deals with your excused absence from work, as well as when you may return to work, possibly in a different role until you’ve recovered fully.
But this period of your claim is crucial, and by contacting an L&I attorney, you’ll learn what you need to do, as well as what you may want to avoid until your claim comes through. If you neglect to seek the advice of a legal expert, you could mistakenly sign away your rights and lose the ability to receive adequate care and compensation.
Furthermore, since your injury or illness involves your health and privacy, some employees may not feel comfortable discussing details with their employer. An L&I attorney can help you navigate the challenges of your claim while protecting your rights and your health coverage.
If you’re unable to do your existing job due to injury, your doctor will advise what tasks you may be able to do, as well as the things that you should avoid. Even if your injury was not your employer’s fault, Washington is a no-fault state, meaning that any injury can produce a valid L&I claim;the rule also applies to self-insured employers.
However, if you’re concerned about experiencing retribution for communicating your injury to your employer, please know it’s illegal for an employer to discriminate against you due to filing an L&I claim, mentioning that you want to file a claim, or that you’re actively seeking workers’ compensation benefits.
But while that may be true, it’s often best to seek the advice of a competent L&I attorney to help you navigate the challenging landscape of a workers’ compensation claim. An L&I attorney will help you ensure that you’re doing the right things for your claim, as well as helping protect you against any problems with your employer.