You don't have to hire a lawyer to get a little good legal advice.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About L&I Injuries with Answers and Helpful Links

What is L&I

L&I is the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. It is a quasi insurance system covering workers hurt on the job. Benefits include medical care, time loss compensation, permanent partial disability, vocational rehabilitation, pensions, and other payments. Workers in Washington pay an insurance premium for L&I injury coverage. When you get hurt insist on getting L&I benefits you have paid for.

Who is covered by L&I?

Most workers are covered by L&I Insurance. You may have L&I insurance even if you think you don’t. Coverage is mandatory, and your employer is required to pay for it, either before or after you are injured.

  • Most workers are covered by L&I in Washington State. You may have L&I insurance even if your employer says you do not, and even if your employer has not paid for this coverage.
    Most employers don’t like L&I claims. Some will tell you that you do not have L&I coverage to discourage you from filing a claim. Don’t believe an employer who is not telling the truth. Some employers may not have paid for your L&I coverage. If you are a worker you are covered, even if your boss cheated L&I.
  • You’re covered even if you work “under the table.”
    Common sense seems to say that if you work under the table, you have no L&I coverage. Common sense is wrong. If you’re a worker in Washington State, you are covered, even if you work “under the table.”
  • You’re covered, even if you are undocumented and not a citizen.
  • If you are a worker, you are covered, with some exceptions.
  • The exceptions to mandatory L&I insurance coverage are listed in RCW 51.12.020.

Is there more than one type of L&I Insurance?

There are two types of Washington State L&I insurance. The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is in charge of worker’s compensation in Washington State. Most L&I cases are state fund cases, handled by L&I claims managers. Some cases are self insured, handled by agents of the employer.

How do I file a claim?

To file a claim, you must see a doctor and complete a Labor & Industries accident report form. For state fund cases, most doctors have this form in their office. For self-insured employers, your employer should have the form you need. Complete your part of the form, then give it to the doctor’s office to complete their part of the form, and send it to Labor & Industries. It is also smart to report your injury to your employer as soon as possible. For additional information see L&I Claims – Detailed Guide to Starting an L&I Claim.

Is there a deadline to file an L&I claim?

Yes, for sure there is a deadline to file a claim. It is called the Statute of Limitations. There are two such statutes, one for injury and another for an occupational disease. For an injury you have one year from your injury date to file an L&I claim. For an occupational disease you have two years or longer, from the manifestation of your occupational disease, to file an l&I claim.

What benefits does Labor & Industries provide to injured workers?

Labor and Industries can provide benefits such as medical coverage, time loss payments, permanent partial disability awards, vocational services, pensions, death payments, travel reimbursement, loss of earning power payments, and more. To find out more, see L&I Benefits.

Can I choose any doctor I want?

You may choose your own physician, from a limited pool of doctors (network providers), and have the medical bills for treatment and diagnostic testing paid for. The treatment you receive needs to be related to your job injury or occupational disease. To continue with L&I medical care, your medical treatment needs to be curative. For more information, see Medical Care.

Does workers’ compensation pay for my lost wages?

Workers’ Compensation coverage will pay time loss for 60 to 75 percent of what your wages were on the day of your injury. This amount is limited and cannot exceed the state maximum rate. You should receive a check every two weeks, as long as you are properly certified as unable to work by your attending physician. For more information, see How do I get a fair time loss rate?

When my claim closes, am I entitled to a money settlement?

Yes as an injured worker, you have a right to receive a money award if you have an impairment which is an objectively measurable impairment that exists at the time of your claim closure. The amount of the award is dependent upon the extent of the impairment and the date of injury. Claim closure will usually occur shortly after the doctor has completed treatment and L&I says you can work. For more information, see How to Get a Fair Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) Settlement.     See also: Claims Resolution Structured Settlement Agreements.

Can I have an attorney represent me for a workers’ compensation claim?

Yes in workers’ compensation, you have a right but not an obligation to have legal counsel. If you have any questions regarding workers’ compensation law, or your rights, you may want to consult an attorney. You may choose any attorney you wish, and you have a right to have the fees that your attorney charges reviewed to ensure that they are reasonable. For more information see Lawyers.

Do I want to hire an attorney to represent me for my workers compensation claim?

It depends on many things. Mostly it’s about your facts and L&I law. If you know what to do, you can DIY. If you are unsure, ask for a free consultation and figure it out.

What is a third party claim?

A third party claim exists if, while on the job, you are injured intentionally by anyone, or if you are injured negligently by someone who is not your employer or co-worker. When this occurs, you can demand payment for the losses that they have caused you and, if necessary, sue them. For more information, see Third Party Claims.

Can I get job retraining if my injury does not allow me to return to my old job?

Limited vocational assistance is sometimes available to injured workers whose injury continues to totally restrict their ability to work. For more information, see L&I Vocational Training – The Ultimate Guide.

What is the difference between an injury and an occupational disease?

A job injury is basically defined as a sudden and traumatic outside event producing an immediate result to the worker. An occupational disease is a medical condition or disease that has developed slowly, over time, resulting from exposure or a continuous condition on the job. An example of a job injury is falling off a ladder and breaking an arm. An example of an occupational disease is loss of hearing due to working around noisy equipment. For more information and a more formal definition see Injury or Occupational Disease.

What is an IME?

An IME is short for  independent medical examination. An IME is requested by the state or self-insured employer for the stated purpose of obtaining an expert opinion regarding medical conditions. In reality, IME’s are performed by hack doctors and often used to cut off benefits and close claims. Labor & Industries or the self-insured employer has the power to schedule and insist on your attendance at a reasonable number of IME’s. If an IME is scheduled for you, you might want to consider consulting an attorney. See: Eleven Things That Can Ruin Your Claim. See also: IME.

What is an L&I Pension?

An L&I pension is the closure and the settlment of an L&I claim with lifetime pension payments. If you will never work again it is the best way to settle your case. See L&I Pension

What is an L&I Settlement

L&I settlements come in three varieties:  Permanent Partial Disability (PPD), Pension, and CRSSA. Most settlements are for PPD, money paid for permanent impairment claim closure. See L&I Settlements or L&I Permanent Partial Disability Settlement, Claim Resolution Structured Settlement Agreements (CRSSA)

Can I reopen my Labor & Industries claim after it is closed?

Yes, Labor & Industries claims (except CRSSA’s) can be reopened for full benefits any time within seven years of the date of first final closure. L&I claims can be reopened for medical benefits anytime. To reopen you must show an objective worsening of your accepted condition. See Reopening an L&I claim

Do I have to pay taxes on my L&I payments?

Mostly good news here. Federal Tax Regulation 1-104-1(b) states that workers’ compensation benefits for personal injuries or sickness incurred in the course of employment are excluded from gross income (not taxable). There is a possible exception for mental health injuries if they are not the result of a personal injury. Talk to your tax advisor if this applies to you.

There is however tax injustice in the reverse offset years (age 62-65), for some persons getting both social security disability and either L&I time loss or L&I pension payments. The L&I benefits which offset the taxable Social Security benefits are treated as though they are a taxable Social Security benefit. Social Security will send a statement to the injured worker and to the IRS. Depending on the remainder of household income, income taxes may be due on these Social Security Benefits even though they are never received. 28 U.S.C. § 86(d)(3). US Tax Court Flores v. Commissioner. This is an unfair tax. Talk to your tax advisor if this taxation of the reverse offset applies to you.

What is an Offset?

Oh my, offsets are bad news. They are easy to hate. Offsets are L&I and Social Securities way of making sure you don’t get full benefits under both systems. Offsets are bogus, but they are the law and one or the other of them will deduct this money from your benefits.

Other Kinds of Worker Compensation.

What are the different types of workers compensation?

How to Get Legal Help with My L&I Claim

Most L&I lawyers are happy to give you an initial free consultation. At the Sharpe Law Firm we offer this free consultation togehter with  a free strategy session. We might get a copy of your L&I file  and talk with you about the important things we see in your L&I file and your future. Call us and we’ll answer your questions. Don’t think twice, it’s free. Give us a call or complete our do I have a case questionnaire.

What’s Next?