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Spinal Cord Injuries

If you suffer a spinal cord injury in the workplace, it is crucial that you receive treatment and seek the counsel of a spinal cord injury attorney as soon as possible. Proper diagnoses can generally be secured with an MRI, CT scan, or myelogram and will help ensure that you receive the needed treatment for a successful medical outcome. Our Seattle L&I and spinal cord injury attorneys work closely with clients to ensure that you receive the L&I benefits to which you may be entitled.

In this resource, we delve into the specific challenges faced by individuals who sustain spinal cord injuries in the workplace as well as the process of obtaining a Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) rating to ensure fair compensation.

spinal cord injury x-ray image by mri on digital tablet screen with medical team for consult

Understanding Workplace-Related Spinal Cord Injuries

Workplace accidents can lead to severe spinal cord injuries, causing significant physical, emotional, and financial hardships for affected individuals and their families. These injuries may result from falls, machinery accidents, construction incidents, or other occupational hazards.

Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) Ratings and Workplace Injuries

When a spinal cord injury occurs due to a workplace accident in Washington state, the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) assesses a PPD rating to determine the extent of permanent impairment. This rating plays a crucial role in providing compensation to injured workers for their lost wages, medical expenses, and ongoing rehabilitation needs.

How Are PPD Ratings Determined?

The evaluation process for PPD ratings considers various factors specific to workplace-related spinal cord injuries, such as the circumstances of the accident, the severity of the injury, and the impact it has on the individual’s ability to return to work or perform daily tasks. In order for L&I to determine whether you are entitled to benefits, the Department will issue an order for an Independent Medical Exam (IME).

Assessing Workplace-Related Spinal Cord Injuries through Independent Medical Examinations (IMEs)

In cases where there may be disputes regarding the severity or causation of a workplace-related spinal cord injury, Independent Medical Examinations (IMEs) play a significant role in providing impartial evaluations. An IME involves an assessment conducted by a qualified medical professional whose decision is made independent of both the injured worker and the employer’s insurance company.

What Is An IME?

An IME is a medical evaluation requested by L&I or a self-insured employer and are conducted by approved L&I providers. During exam, the provider will review your medical history and accident details to establish findings, opinions, and conclusions about your physical condition, including:

Evaluation of injury severity: An IME aims to provide an objective assessment of the severity of the spinal cord injury, including its physical and functional implications. This evaluation helps determine the extent of impairment and the impact on the individual’s ability to work and perform daily activities.

Unfortunately, IMEs can be problematic. For one, the injured worker does not usually get a say in who conducts their IME. What’s more, L&I doctors are rarely as neutral or objective as they claim. They tend to be more loyal to the insurance company that hired them, and, in many cases, their reports and assessments will try to make the case that an injured worker is fine.

Causation determination: In cases where there may be questions regarding the cause of the spinal cord injury, an IME aims to establish whether the injury is, in fact, related to the industrial injury or occupational illness. This evaluation is crucial for determining eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits.

Many IME doctors will attempt to claim that the worker’s condition is not related to an industrial injury, but was a pre-existing condition or one sustained outside of the workplace. Such accusations can massively impact the length and validity of a claim, let alone the potential for any future award and further treatment.

Adding Conditions: Sometimes Claims Managers recommend IMEs when a client wants to add a condition to their claim, finding that an accident-related injury took longer to surface. Other times it’s because the industrial injury or occupational disease has caused further complications or aggravated a pre-existing condition.

When one sustains a catastrophic injury to one part of the body, it is easy to miss lesser injuries elsewhere. Additionally, the stress of an industrial injury or occupational disease can often worsen a pre-existing condition. If left untreated, these lesser or former conditions can become a great burden on an injured worker, making the recovery process much longer than it might otherwise have been.

Treatment recommendations: IME reports often include recommendations for medical treatment, rehabilitation, and ongoing care tailored to the specific needs of the injured worker. These recommendations help guide the individual’s recovery process and ensure they receive appropriate care.

IME Impact On PPD Rating

The findings of an IME can significantly influence the PPD rating assigned to a workplace-related spinal cord injury. L&I considers the results of the IME, along with other medical evidence and documentation, in determining the extent of permanent impairment and the corresponding compensation awarded to the injured worker.

How Much Is My L&I Settlement Or Award Worth?

In Washington state, the money awarded to a claimant is determined by numerous factors making it difficult to provide an accurate L&I settlement calculator. Factors that determine a settlement or award amount include the date the injury occurred, the severity of the injury, and the steps the injured worker takes to receive the compensation they need.

  • Permanent Partial Disability  awards: payment is typically based on the type and severity of the injury and whether an Independent Medical Examination (IME) agrees or disagrees with the physician’s opinion. Washington State L&I updates injury payouts each year based on the cost of living adjustments (COLA); the date of your injury will influence your L&I award amount.
  • The seriousness of your disability: Your injury is rated as a percentage in its category or given a value of 1–9. Typically, the higher the number, the more significant your injury is. Your PPD award is calculated from those numbers before your case is closed. The Permanent Partial Disability L&I settlement calculator is the L&I Disability Awards Charts.
  • What you’ve done to help yourself: if you’re proactive regarding your workers’ compensation claim and work hard to ensure your claim has the correct information, you could earn more in your award payout.

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 and spinal cord injury 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?

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 Labor & Industries Case?

If you have an L&I claim or wonder if you have an injury case, ask yourself the following:

  • Have you been denied the medical care benefits to which you are legally entitled?
  • Has L&I asked you to undergo an Independent Medical Exam (IME)?
  • Do you have questions about the L&I claim process that you don’t understand?

If any of the above apply to you, you may have a case!

Navigating an L&I claim can be difficult and very time-consuming, especially when you’re ill or injured. You want to focus on healing and make sure your bills are paid, but if you don’t file things properly or on time, your health, home, and job could be in jeopardy. Many individuals miss out on much-needed L&I benefits because they don’t understand what to do or how to get the most compensation for their injuries. If you are experiencing any challenges in your case, a labor and industries attorney can assist you. By contacting Emery | Reddy as soon as possible after you’ve been injured, we can help you avoid the common pitfalls of filing an L&I claim. Our Seattle L&I and spinal cord injury attorneys are here for you every step of the way.

Emery | Reddy Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys Can Help You With Your L&I Claim

To learn more about IMEs, read our essential tips. 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 and spinal cord injury 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.

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Claim Value 

To determine the value of your L&I claim you first need to understand the different types of L&I settlements 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 Employer Claims

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 and spinal cored injury 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.

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Timothy W. Emery

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Patrick B. Reddy

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Karolina S. Arthur

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Paul Cipriani, Jr.

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