Can I Leave the State While on Workers’ Comp?

Yes, you can, but it will very likely affect your claim. 

If you have an open workers’ compensation claim, then it is likely you are getting medical care and/or vocational training. If you voluntarily leave the state and it interrupts your medical care or job training, L&I can suspend or close your claim.  

It’s crucial to understand how leaving the state might affect your workers’ comp benefits. You need to get approval from your case manager and follow specific procedures to ensure your benefits continue uninterrupted.

Leaving the State Can Easily Impact Your Workers’ Comp Case. Be Careful.

L&I is looking for any reason to end your claim. You may lose your benefits if you leave the state without a solid plan that follows their rules. 

When you leave the state, L&I may look for reasons to close your claim. You need to ensure you have a solid plan and communicate with your claim manager before leaving. Here’s what could happen if you travel or relocate without clear communication:

  • Unexplained absences or failure to notify the appropriate parties can raise questions and suspicions about how committed you are to your recovery.  You could be declared to be non-cooperative. 
  • If you miss scheduled evaluations or treatment sessions due to being out of state without good reason, L&I will interpret it as non-compliance with your recovery plan and begin to close your claim. As long as you need medical treatment, you need an attending physician.
  • Any perceived non-compliance or failure to follow prescribed treatments and evaluations could lead to adjustments in your benefits, most likely including non-cooperative suspension or claim closure.

Make Sure You Understand Washington State Workers’ Compensation Requirements.

There are strict rules and requirements that you must follow to remain eligible for workers’ comp benefits. 

Officially, these restrictions are designed to ensure that benefits are used appropriately and effectively. They are also convenient excuses to stop paying you the benefits you deserve. 

These restrictions include

  • Compliance with your medical treatment plan prescribed by healthcare providers.
  • Participation in vocational rehabilitation programs if required.
  • Accurate reporting of income or employment status.
  • Limitations on activities that could jeopardize recovery or be seen as inconsistent with your medical restrictions.

If You Leave the State, How are You Going to Comply with Your Treatment Plans? 

Leaving the state can disrupt your established treatment plan. 

For instance, if you’re under the care of a healthcare provider in Washington State, leaving could make it challenging to attend necessary appointments or follow your treatment protocols. 

Before you leave, figure out how you will comply with your treatment plan. If you don’t, L&I will interpret this as intentional non cooperation and they then may suspend or end your benefits.  

If you’re getting vocational retraining, then it becomes more difficult to leave the state. 

You’re required to cooperate with the state by fully participating in your retraining program. Leaving the state without good reason and interrupting your training so much that you can’t complete your program will almost certainly be deemed uncooperative and lead to them canceling your benefits. 

Accurate Reporting of Income or Employment Status

If you go to work and collect time loss while you are in or out of state and L&I finds out, they will consider it fraud leading to potential fraud accusations, prosecution, and loss of benefits.

If you leave the state, avoid the temptation or opportunity to work without properly notifying your workers’ comp case manager. It’s not worth the trouble it can cause. 

Avoid Activities That Could Jeopardize Your Recovery

If you’re traveling out of state, do not participate in any activities that are not recommended for your recovery process. 

If L&I finds out that you did anything to jeopardize your recovery, they will use it as evidence that your workplace injury is not as severe as claimed and use it to reduce or terminate your benefits.

Here’s How Your Workers’ Comp Claim Might Be Affected in Different Scenarios 

ScenarioWhat to doThings to watch out forHow Your Claim Will Be Affected
VacationNotify your claims manager. Schedule to not interfere with medical or vocational appointmentsCare with social media postsDon’t post activities inconsistent with your medical restrictions
Family EmergencyNotify claims managerReschedule conflicting medical or vocational appointmentsUnhelpful claims managers could say missing medical or vocational appointments is non-cooperation
Permanent MoveFind a new doctor in your new locationCan be difficult if you move out of stateIf you need medical then you need a doctor 
New Job OfferNotify claims managers. Be sure you can perform the new job duties before your claim closesClaim closing before you know if you can perform the job dutiesClaim may close soon 
Specialized Medical AttentionGet your attending physician to make a referralSome referrals will need pre-authorization. Careful if an IME is ordered Bad IME can ruin your claim

You MUST Notify Your Case Manager BEFORE You Leave The State if it interferes with claim activities.

Communicating with your case manager before you leave the state is important 

You need to include the duration of your stay, destination, and reasons for travel. The notification process involves:

  • Providing details, including the reasons for your travel, destinations, and the expected duration of your absence. 
  • In many cases, you will need formal approval for your travel, especially if it affects your ability to attend medical appointments or vocational training.
  • Make sure that your case manager has your current contact information to keep you informed about any updates or changes to your claim while you are away.

Take the Following Steps to Notify Your Case Manager About Travel Plans.

  1. Contact them directly via email or letter. This establishes a written record of your notification.
  2. Provide your trip details, including the destination, purpose, and duration. 
  3. Discuss how the travel might affect your treatment or ability to attend evaluations. 
  4. Be ready to reschedule necessary appointments to ensure compliance with your recovery plan and the continuation of benefits. 

How to Receive Medical Treatment and Ensure It’s Covered While You’re Out of State

Remember, when you leave the state and your doctor, you’re going to another state with physicians who probably won’t be willing to become providers under the WA L&I doctors system. 

The only likely exception to this may be in Oregon and Idaho, where you may find SOME doctors who work within the Washington L&I doctors’ network.

You must have an L&I approved medical provider to keep your claim in good status. 

If you require medical treatment while out of state, the process will involve coordinating with your workers’ comp claim manager to cover the treatment. It may also require transferring care to a provider approved by L&I. This involves:

  • Coordinating care before you leave by discussing your travel plans with your treating physician to ensure continuity of care. This may include transferring your medical care to a provider in the new location or scheduling a virtual appointment with your Washington State doctor, if possible.
  • Make sure your workers’ comp insurance approves any out-of-state medical treatment. L&I won’t cover unauthorized treatment, and you will have to pay for it out-of-pocket.
  • You may need to keep detailed records of any treatments you receive while out of state and communicate these to your case manager to maintain compliance with your claim.

What if I Require Treatment That Isn’t Offered Within Washington State?

Receiving out-of-state treatment through L&I is a complex and convoluted process. Getting approval requires thorough documentation and justification of the necessity for specialized care not available in Washington. 

If you need treatment unavailable in Washington state, you must communicate with your L&I claims manager. They should guide you through the approval process for out-of-state treatment, including:

  1. Submitting a request detailing the necessity for specialized treatment
  2. Proof that there are no available and effective alternatives within Washington State
  3. The expected outcomes of the out-of-state care
  4. Before approving the requested out of state treatment your claims manager will review the request to ensure it aligns with your treatment plan and workers’ compensation benefits.

What if I’m Moving Out of State Permanently?

Moving out of state or country with a Washington L&I Claim complicates your claim. You must find a doctor willing to get a Washington State L&I Medical Provider account number. This is not easy, but it can be done.

There are L&I rules about changing doctors at WAC 296-20-065.  

When you find a good out-of-state doctor, if they are not a Washington State medical provider, then you must convince them to become a network provider by submitting a form to request to become an L&I network provider. 

To Change Your L&I Doctor, Follow These Three Steps

  1. Find a good doctor
  2. Be sure the new doctor is an approved Washington State medical or get this new doctor to either join the medical provider network or if appropriate, get a provider number with L&I.
  3. Complete a Transfer of Care Form

Contact Sharpe Law Firm if You Have Any Questions

If you’re an injured worker and you need to leave the state while receiving workers’ compensation, you must understand how it can affect your claim and make sure you remain in compliance with L&I requirements. Schedule a free consultation with us for personalized advice and a detailed discussion on how to manage your workers’ comp claim during out-of-state travel. We’re here to guide you through the process and protect your benefits.

How to get a Free Consultation and Case Evaluation.

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Chris Sharpe

Meet Chris Sharpe

Christopher Sharpe is the go to attorney for injured persons. His law firm is helpful, honest, and knowledgeable about workers' compensation and personal injury law in the State of Washington. Chris has been helping injured Washington State workers for over 40 years. He has built a successful law practice by thoroughly educating, honestly helping, and successfully representing workers throughout Washington State.

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