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Common Mistakes In L&I Claims

Navigating an L&I claim can be extremely complex and time-consuming. Don’t let L&I ruin your claim! Below are some of the most common L&I claim mistakes that you should avoid and our advice on how to avoid L&I claim pitfalls.

Worried handicapped woman reading her l&i claim on laptop

Failure To File Your L&I Claim Promptly

If you want the best chance of receiving the L&I benefits to which you are entitled, you need to report your injury and start the L&I claim process right away. You have one year from the date of your injury to file a claim for L&I benefits, or two years if the injury is an occupational illness. If you miss these deadlines, it’s very likely your claim will be permanently barred by these statutes of limitation.

Underestimating Self-Insured Employers

Self-insurance is less common than L&I insurance, but it’s popular among larger corporations as it allows them to save money because these employers hire third-party firms—instead of using L&I—to evaluate workers’ compensation claims, which can cause endless headaches for injured workers. Other tactics that self-insured employers may use are claim suppression, harassment, and even denying benefits. If your employer is self-insured, you are at a disadvantage from the onset.

Downplaying Your Injury

One common L&I claim mistake workers make is downplaying their injuries when they first see a doctor. However, if you don’t tell the doctor exactly what you are experiencing, the doctor’s records won’t reflect your injuries and pain, and L&I or your employer could use these records to later prove that:

  • Your injuries and pain are less severe.
  • You weren’t really injured at all.
  • Your injuries are the result of something that happened outside of the workplace.

There are always risks associated with talking to a doctor for an L&I claim. However, you’ll avoid making some of the most common L&I claim mistakes if you’re honest about your injuries and the impact they’ve had on your life.

Receiving An Unfavorable Independent Medical Exam (IME)

L&I may require that you seek an IME from an approved L&I provider who can validate your injury and provide a neutral second opinion on your condition. The purpose of an IME is to help the insurance company determine the reality and extent of your injury. The L&I doctor’s findings are then used to deny or award benefits for your workers’ compensation claim to help you recover and pay for treatment. Here are our tips on how to beat an IME exam and see past IME doctor tricks.

Accepting The Wrong Impairment Rating

For many L&I claims an impairment rating is issued, which determines how much an injured worker will get paid based on their injury and the effect it has on their daily life. Before you agree to the rating, you need answers to the following questions:

  • Who issued the rating?
  • Did the IME provider provide the rating?
  • Which doctors support the rating?
  • Have you finished your medical treatment?
  • Have you truly reached maximum medical improvement (MMI)?
  • Are you concerned that you might need another procedure?

It is important that you don’t make a common L&I claim mistake by ensuring that you have the right medical opinion and support to receive the highest rating available. If you feel that you have not received an inappropriate rating, you can ask L&I for increased impairment benefits.

Not Realizing That Mental Health Issues Are Valid L&I Claims

Mental health issues are treated similarly to physical injuries when they occur in the workplace; however, it’s not easy to find a mental health professional capable of supporting a mental health L&I claim. One of the biggest issues with L&I claims involving mental health injuries stems from the injury itself—and if you find it difficult to address your L&I claim on your own, hiring one of the experienced L&I lawyers at Emery | Reddy immediately is crucial to receiving the L&I benefits to which you are entitled.

Forgetting That You Are Being Monitored

Make no mistake, from the moment you are injured at work, you should expect to be monitored. L&I defense firms regularly use surveillance companies to try to catch an injured worker doing physical activity that contradicts the L&I claim. IME staff and doctors also look for any sign that an injured worker could be overplaying his or her injury. Defense counsel has been known to hire investigators to research and record social media posts and online activity. Employers are incentivized to use resources to fight an L&I claim because accepted claims affect the amount they pay for workers’ comp insurance.

Refusing Work Offered By Your Employer After Filing Your L&I Claim

In most circumstances, you should not outright refuse an offer for light-duty work. You may find that you can cope with light-duty work if it’s pitched at an appropriate level. If you find yourself in this situation, the first thing you should do is call the legal team at Emery | Reddy, PLLC immediately. The second thing you should do is contact your doctor. If your doctor disagrees with the light-duty job in writing, you will have a good argument to L&I that you remain unable to work.

Returning To Work Too Soon After Your L&I Claim

An employer who wants to fight an L&I claim may use the employee’s return to work as evidence that the worker is in fact able to work full-time again. Occasionally an employer may use the period after the injured worker returns to work to place the worker on a performance improvement plan (PIP) until the employee is fired or quits.

Accepting A Smaller Award Amount Than You Deserve

To determine the value of your L&I award you first need to understand the different types of workers’ compensation awards offered in Washington State. L&I awards are paid out when the claim is closed, though the total settlement amount awarded upon claim closure depends on the size of the award. L&I award amounts vary widely and typically fall into three categories:

  • L&I Disability Pensions: a life-long benefit awarded to injured workers who will never be able to return to gainful employment due to a severe or life-threatening injury.
  • Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) awards: a one-time sum paid to injured workers when their L&I claim is closed. The worker can re-enter the workforce following a PPD award.
  • Claim Resolution Settlement Agreement (CRSA): an L&I settlement option where all parties agree to close an injury claim for a specified amount. When agreeing to this settlement type, the injured worker exchanges all future benefits, except medical, for the payment.

L&I disability pensions are the best benefit awarded by L&I, and they are hotly contested—less than 2% of all L&I claims end up settled in this manner. Because these claims are expensive to fund, it’s sometimes cheaper for the State or self-insured employer (SIE) to fight a claim rather than just pay it. In other words, your claim is valuable, and as such, you should expect to fight hard for it.

Waiting To Protest Or Appeal Your L&I Claim

Don’t make the common L&I claim mistake of waiting too long to protest or appeal your claim. You, your employer, and your doctor all have the right to protest any decision made about your claim. L&I must receive a written protest within 60 calendar days of the date the decision was received (15 days for decisions about vocational benefits) or the decision becomes final.

You may also appeal directly to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals (BIIA). The decision becomes final if your written appeal is not received within the following legal time limits from the date you received the decision:

  • 60 days to appeal a claim decision or a payment decision
  • 20 days for providers to appeal a billing decision that reduces the amount paid or demands repayment

Not Doing Enough To Help Yourself

If you’re proactive regarding your injury claim and work hard to ensure your claim has the correct information, you could earn more in your award payout. The more you can do to prove to L&I or the SIE that you are willing to help yourself, the more likely you are to get a better award.

Patrick reddy and timothy emery in the downtown seattle emery reddy offices

Failure To Investigate Whether You May Also Have An Employment Law Or Third-Party 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 attorney and thus never discover that in addition to their 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?

A 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.

Emery Reddy lawyer and client going over workers comp questions

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 attorneys are here for you every step of the way.

Not Getting Expert Legal Advice From An L&I Attorney

The bottom line is that anyone who isn’t familiar with L&I claims should seek the input of experienced L&I attorneys who are.

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 legal team thoroughly assesses every case to determine if our clients have additional claims. At times, this can extend far beyond the underlying workers’ compensation claim.

Whether you are unsure how to file an L&I claim or you don’t know where to turn for advice, don’t make a mistake with your claim before it gets off the ground. Instead, contact Emery | Reddy, PLLC right away. Our legal team can provide a free case review to determine if we can assist you with your claim. Please remember to have your L&I claim number readily available.

Want More Information?

L&I Disability Pension

If you sustain a serious or life-changing injury and are no longer able to work, you could be entitled to a Washington State L&I disability pension.


The L&I workers’ compensation process is anything but straightforward. Find out the answers to your L&I workers’ comp questions today.


If you’ve been asked to attend an IME exam, make no mistake—your L&I claim is on the line.

Meet The Team

The L&I 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

emery reddy attorney patrick reddy headshot

Patrick B. Reddy

Emery reddy attorney karolina s. athur headshot

Karolina S. Arthur

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Paul Cipriani, Jr.

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