If you have been injured while you are on the job in Washington State, you may have a valid Labor and Industries claim (L&I). With an L&I claim, you are not allowed to sue your employer. Instead, you file a claim with the State of Washington. The reason behind this is that employers do not have to defend themselves in lawsuits that can cost a lot of time and money, and employees do not have to undergo the stress of a lawsuit that has an uncertain outcome.
With an L&I claim that is accepted by the State of Washington, the State pays for the injured worker’s medical bills and pays for the time the worker lost while at work, known as time-loss. Time-loss is determined by your monthly wage. Wages include tips, bonuses, and overtime. After your monthly wages have been determined, L&I then pays a percentage of your monthly wages. If you are single, it is 60%. If you married, it is 65%. For each child that is born or conceived prior to the date of your injury, it is 2%. The most you can get in Washington State is 75% of your monthly wage.
In addition to time-loss, you may also receive the following from the State of Washington while you are recovering from your injuries and preparing to return to work: vocational rehabilitation services, which are intended to help retrain you for work, and money called pensions for people who cannot work because of their injuries or permanent partial impairment.
It is up to your doctor to determine whether you are capable of returning to work. A vocational counselor—this is someone who understands your job and its physical components—to get a work history from you and then give that to your doctor. A job analyses then will be done, and you may be determined to be able to return to work again. Or it is possible you will receive training to go into a different line of work than the one you were in when you were injured. You have the option as to which doctor will see you, so under Washington law, you can see the doctor you have always seen. The doctor has to be part of the L&I Provider Network, however. If it is necessary, you can treat with more than one doctor, so long as it is approved by the Department.
It should be noted that if you are able to return to work, there is no law in Washington State that says you have to return to the same job you had before. In addition, there is no law in Washington that holds you have to receive the same rate of pay as before, either.
There are a few exceptions to the general rule that holds you cannot sue your employer. The exceptions occur if your employer intentionally harms you, if you harmed by a product that is in someway defective, or if another person or company harmed you while you are on the job. This is called a “third party claim.”
Another exception to the general rule that says you cannot sue your employer comes if your employer does what is called “unlawful retaliation.” A good, and common, example of unlawful retaliation occurs when your employer fires you after you bring a L&I claim. Some employers do this for a variety of reasons, ranging from not wanting to pay into L&I to having the State of Washington look into their business. Other examples include harassing or intimidation, giving the worker a job demotion, or stripping the employee of his or her benefits. In any case, these are all examples of “unlawful employer retaliation.” If this has occurred to you, you may be allowed to sue your employer or another company or person and also collect L&I benefits.
When someone is killed while working or on the job, the family members of the killed worker are allowed to receive death benefits through the State of Washington. For example, a spouse or child of the killed worker would be allowed to bring a claim to the State of Washington. (Again, there may be what is called a third party claim, discussed above, against an individual or company depending on the facts of your case.) Funeral or burial expenses may also be covered, as well as money for the surviving spouse and the children.
It is always beneficial to speak to an experienced, qualified attorney about your L&I case. Call The Jackman Law Firm for a free consultation.