learn Your Rights

Can I Sue My Employer for L&I Claims?

In most cases, Washington state law says that a worker cannot sue his or her employer — or co-worker — for a job injury covered by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). Let’s break down how the law works and what you can claim.

What Qualifies as an L&I Claim?

timothy emery and patrick reddy in front of the Seattle Courthouse

L&I, or your self-insured employer (SIE), can approve your claim if your doctor certifies that you were injured at work or have an occupational illness. If your claim is accepted by L&I, you will receive certain L&I benefits. Some of the benefits to which you may be entitled are medical care, wage replacement (time-loss), vocational rehabilitation, and L&I disability pensions for the most severely injured individuals. However, due to the bureaucratic nature of the claims process, many cases get bogged down in red tape, paperwork, and technicalities. An L&I claim could be denied for almost any reason including the following:

  • The injury is considered “preexisting” and was not worsened at work.
  • The injury is determined to have occurred outside of work.
  • The injury occurred in a parking lot, which means it is not covered.
  • If the injury is a mental health condition, it is often denied due to a lack of medical documentation.
  • An Independent Medical Exam (IME) diagnosis that determines the injury is not as bad as claimed, or non-existent.


Watch This Video to Learn More about How Employment Law and L&I Claims Work Together

Can I Sue L&I?

You cannot sue L&I, even if you are unhappy with how they handle your claim.

Washington state workers injured on the job cannot sue their employer for negligence, instead, they must file a workers’ compensation claim with Labor and Industries. This is why L&I attorneys refer to workers’ compensation as a “no-fault system.”

So, what can you do? If your L&I claim is denied, your only option is to appeal the decision. The time frame to appeal is limited, so you will want to enlist the help of a skilled L&I attorney to help you navigate that process.

Are There Any Circumstances under Which I Can Sue My Employer?

While you can’t normally sue your employer for a work injury, there is an exception to this rule under Washington state law.

Negligent Act Vs. Intentional Act

You cannot sue your employer for a negligent act. If you are hurt on the job due to employer negligence you should file an L&I claim.

You may be able to sue your employer under Action against employer for intentional injury RCW 51.24.020; however, these claims are not easy — the legal code requires that:

  • An employer had certain knowledge that the worker would sustain an injury.
  • The employer willfully disregarded that knowledge by taking no action and providing no warning of the hazard.

This means that you can only sue your employer for a work-related injury if you can prove that they knew you would get hurt and chose to do nothing about it.

Can I Be Fired While On L&I?

Unfortunately, yes, you can be fired while you are away from work during the L&I claim process. But very importantly, you cannot be fired for opening an L&I claim nor for any other discriminatory reason. If you have been fired or mistreated for filing an L&I claim, call Emery | Reddy, PLLC today to speak to an experienced Intake Specialist and to learn more about how we may be able to help.

Your L&I Claim Is Worth More If You Also Have an Employment Claim

A significant number of L&I — workers’ compensation claims often involve additional legal claims such as employment 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 claim or a third-party claim. Pursuing additional legal action with the help of an experienced Labor and Industries attorney has the potential to significantly increase a claim’s overall compensation. At Emery | Reddy, our experienced Attorneys practice both Employment and Workers’ Compensation Law, which means we will investigate all aspects of your claim to make sure you aren’t missing out on any potential benefits.

What Is an Employment 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. Third-party claims are private matters and are typically litigated directly with the Washington State Superior Court.

How Do I Know If I Have a Strong L&I Claim?​

Paul Cipriani at the Emery Reddy offices in Seattle

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

If any of the above apply to you, Emery | Reddy may be able to help.

Navigating a workers’ compensation 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 and navigating an L&I claim. Our Seattle L&I Attorneys are here for you every step of the way.

Do I Need to Hire an Employment Law Attorney?

If you have tried to work things out with your employer and nothing has been done, then it’s time to consult with an experienced Seattle Employment Law attorney. Employment Law is complicated and can be overwhelming for anyone not familiar with it. Trying to hold a company accountable for bad business practices requires a skilled attorney to navigate the different laws and tactics an employer may use.

Emery | Reddy has decades of experience in Employment Law and an unmatched record of helping Washington state workers get the justice they deserve in labor violations. Call for a Free Case Review to speak to an experienced Intake Specialist and learn more about your rights.

Want More Information?

Employment law violations are all too common and can leave you feeling ashamed, confused, angry, anxious, and afraid. Find out the answers to your Employment Law questions today.

A document review is a comprehensive consultation and analysis of your document’s legal language, context, and impact on your worker’s rights as an employee of Washington state.

Every day, hardworking employees across Washington state become victims of Employment Law violations, leaving them feeling ashamed, confused, angry, anxious, and afraid. Find out what you can do.


Meet the Team

The Employment Law Attorneys at Emery | Reddy, PLLC are passionate about helping workers with Employment Law issues and L&I claims. We Help Workers®. It’s our motto and what drives us every day.

We know how companies think, and we understand the tactics they use. Our Employment Law Attorneys use that knowledge coupled with over three decades of experience to help our clients get access to the benefits to which they are legally entitled and hold employers accountable when they break the law.

If you’re struggling with an employment law issueinjury, or L&I claim, call us for a Free Case Review with an experienced Intake Specialist to learn more about how Emery | Reddy may be able help you today.

“My husband has been struggling with getting the medical attention that he needs and has been entitled to. Emery | Reddy has given us hope again.”​

— Shelley M.

Receive a
FREE Case Review