Can You Sue Your Employer In Washington State?
It’s hard to know what your options are when you have a work-related injury. Although you can’t file a work-related injury lawsuit against an employer with workers’ compensation insurance in Washington, you can file a workers’ compensation claim for your injuries.
If you’re considering filing, you need to act quickly and rely on the help of a qualified work injury lawyer. The state of Washington has a statute of limitations, which means you have a limited timeframe to file a workers’ compensation claim. Read on to learn more about work-related injury lawsuits and what options are available to you.
How Much Time Do You Have To File A Work Injury Claim In Washington?
In the state of Washington, a workers’ compensation claim must be filed within a year of the incident date. Extensions are rarely granted; however, because occupational diseases and hearing loss happen gradually, there is a two-year statute of limitations to file a claim for those types of injuries.
It can be difficult to pinpoint the date of onset for an occupational disease, so injured individuals sometimes use the diagnosis date, the first treatment date, or other information from medical records to determine the “date of manifestation.” If you’ve developed hearing loss or occupational disease on the job, work closely with your physician and workers’ compensation attorney to iron out the details.
What To Do If You Are Injured While On The Job
Before we jump right into the legal tape of suing for a work injury, let’s go over what to do if you’ve just been injured on the job.
Seek Medical Attention
First things first: get medical attention! A workers’ compensation claim cannot be filed in Washington state until you’ve seen a doctor, so make sure to go to the doctor as soon as possible after you are injured.
Report The Injury
No matter how minor or severe your injuries may be, make sure that your supervisor and HR department are aware of the injury. The best way to do this is to send an email so that you have a written record of it. If you are incapacitated, make sure to have a spouse or family member report the injury on your behalf. Failure to report the injury could disqualify you from receiving benefits.
Document The Details
As soon as you’re able, write down as many details as you possibly can, including the date of the injury, what happened, what caused the accident, where it happened, what injuries you sustained, when your employer found out, and so on. Get photos and witness statements if you can; you never know if you will need them and it’s better to be prepared!
Submit Your Claim
The doctor that sees you at the time of your injury will usually submit an L&I claim for you. If they don’t, you will need to do it yourself. You can either submit the form online through L&I’s website or call them.
If your employer is self-insured, they may give you an incident report and a deadline by which to complete it. Fill it out soon as possible and make sure to keep a copy for yourself. The company will then file this report with their workers’ compensation insurance carrier. You may need to submit medical records along with the report so the insurance carrier has a more complete picture of the incident. During this time, stay in contact with your employer to update them on your recovery.
Hire Legal Counsel
Wondering why you should hire a workers’ compensation attorney? For starters, the red tape around workers’ compensation can make it difficult to understand what’s expected of you during the application process. There may also be instances in which an injury claim is wrongfully denied; your employer may try to suggest that pre-existing conditions caused your injuries or that they occurred outside of the workplace.
A workers’ compensation attorney has seen it all, and they’ll come prepared with the expertise to help you understand the process and protect your rights. They may even point out a path to a work-related injury lawsuit that you didn’t know existed.
What To Do If You Are Injured Off The Job Site
You can’t sue your employer for damages if you weren’t on the job when you got injured, but there are some exceptions. Imagine your manager asks you to run an errand for them on your lunch break, and you get into a car accident. Or you’re injured while on a company retreat. You may have a case in these uncommon situations. Follow the steps above and reach out to an attorney as soon as possible to determine whether you have a case.
Can You Sue Your Employer For Negligence?
When you’re injured at work, your first question might be “Can I sue my employer for pain and suffering?” The desire to sue your employer for their negligence is valid. It’s frustrating when someone’s carelessness causes you pain and suffering. Unfortunately, the Employer Immunity Rule stops you from suing your employer because the state of Washington requires employers to either purchase workers’ comp insurance through the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries or become a certified self-insured employer.
Even though you can’t sue employers covered by L&I insurance, the good news is that you should be able to collect L&I workers’ comp benefits for on-the-job injuries no matter how they happened. These benefits pay for your medical expenses as well as temporary or permanent partial disability.
But because workers’ comp only covers certain losses, you should get in touch with a lawyer to review all your claim options and find out whether you can also file a third-party claim relating to your injury.
Exceptions To The Employer Immunity Rule
There are some exceptions to the Employer Immunity rule in Washington:
- 1. If your employer inflicted injuries on you intentionally
- 2. you are a temp agency employee.
An injury is considered intentional if your employer knew that you would get hurt AND did nothing about it on purpose. These kinds of injuries are hard to prove, and you definitely need a good attorney to help you if you pursue this route.
If you are a temp agency employee and get hurt on the job site where you are temporarily working, you could potentially sue the company for the injury. These cases are rare and complicated, so if this applies to you, contact an L&I attorney right away.
Third-Party Injury Claims
A third-party injury claim is separate from workers’ compensation. While workers’ comp only applies to employers, you can file a third-party claim if your worksite injuries were caused by a negligent driver, property owner, contractor, product manufacturer, or someone else other than your employer. These entities are not immune to lawsuits under the Employer Immunity Rule, so you can sue them for the injuries they’ve caused you. Reach out to your lawyer to find out if you have a case.
Don’t Wait If You Have a Case for a Lawsuit
Injury lawsuits take time to prepare for. You need proof of negligence and to work with your lawyer to investigate, collect evidence, calculate damages, interview witnesses, and more. If you have a good case against your employer, waiting too long can complicate things and may reduce your chances of getting the compensation you need.
What To Do If Your Employer Wrongfully Denies You Benefits
Denied L&I claims are unfortunately a common experience for injured workers. There are many reasons a claim is denied, such as the failure to obtain medical treatment, late claim submissions, incorrectly filed paperwork, and more. In some cases, employers fight workers’ compensation claims to protect the company’s reputation and keep their insurance premiums low.
If your L&I claim is denied, you have 60 days to appeal the decision by filing a “Protest and Request for Reconsideration” through L&I. There is no formal form to fill out; you simply write a letter explaining why you disagree with the denial. L&I will review the letter and decide whether to reverse the decision, modify it, or deny your claim again. If your claim has been denied, we strongly recommend you contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to help you write a letter that increases your chances of a reversal.
Contact A Qualified Personal Injury Lawyer
When you’re injured at work, it can feel intimidating and even hopeless at times. At Emery | Reddy, we fight for you—and we’re on your side. Our proven track record of wins against big-name companies in state and federal courts qualifies us to represent you, and we’re prepared to exhaust every legal avenue to help you recover the damages you need to get back on your feet.
To find out if you have a case for a third-party lawsuit, an employer lawsuit, or a workers’ compensation claim, contact our legal team at our Seattle office to request a free case review.