Frequently Asked Questions

What is Workers’ Compensation?

Workers’ compensation pays for medical expenses resulting from an industrial injury or occupational disease.  Workers’ compensation may also provide monetary benefits to supplement income lost as the result of an injury or occupational disease.  Employees do not have to prove negligence on behalf of the employer to receive benefits. Additionally, employers are protected from lawsuits stemming from work related accidents or conditions.   If the disability is permanent or results in death, additional benefits may be available to the employee and/or their spouse and/or children.  In Washington State, Workers Compensation is governed by Title 51 of the RCW and Title 296 of the Washington Administrative Code.

Filing a claim

Filing a workers’ compensation claim in Washington State involves completing the single page Report of Accident (or Self-Insured Accident Report if your employer is self-insured).  In many cases, the physician that initially treats your injury will report the injury to the Department of Labor and Industries. However, it is ultimately the responsibility of the injured worker to report the injury to Labor and Industries.  In the event of a catastrophic injury that results in hospitalization, the physician and/or employer are required to report the injury to the department immediately.

Do I qualify?

Employees injured during the course of employment are covered by workers’ compensation. The system is designed to provide benefits to injured workers, even if an injury is caused by the employee’s negligence.

There are some notable exceptions including, but not limited to, when the injury occurs while an employee is on lunch, the worker was injured during the commission of a felony, the employee was deemed to not be injured during the course of employment, or the injury is self-inflicted.

Is there a time limit to file a claim?

Washington State law requires that an injury claim be filed within one year of the date of accident.  In the case of an occupational disease, an injured worker has two years from the date of diagnoses to file a claim.

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

An injury is a sudden and traumatic event producing an immediate result to the worker. An occupational disease is a medical condition that arises naturally and proximately out of employment.

Example:  Falling off a ladder and breaking an arm would be an injury.  Constant use of a jack hammer resulting in carpal tunnel syndrome may be considered an occupational disease.

Pre-existing conditions that are aggravated by an injury or occupational disease are also covered.

What if my injury was caused by a third-party, such as an auto accident?

Washington State law generally defines a work-related injury to encompass any injury sustained while on the job. This includes errand duties. If an employee is injured in an automobile accident while in the course of employment, they would be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, regardless of who is at fault for the accident.

If an injury was caused by the negligence of a third-party (someone other than the employer or a coworker), an injured worker may have additional remedies under the law.

Example 1: Someone runs a red light and hits the company truck you are driving while making deliveries for the floral shop, causing you to be injured.  You would be eligible for workers’ compensation, and you may have the right to file a suit against the person who caused the auto accident.

Example 2:  Equipment owned by another company fails as the result of the manufacturer defect, causing your injury.   You would be eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim and may have the right to file suit against the manufacturer.

In the event an injured worker is awarded damages from the suit, the department (or self-insured employer) will have a right to be reimbursed for some, or all, of the benefits they paid.  The calculations are often complex, and the advice of an attorney knowledgeable in work-related third-party claims may be necessary.

What if I am injured in a parking lot?

Work related injuries that occur in a parking lot are not normally allowable. However, an exception is made if the employee’s presence in a parking lot is required as part of their job duties.

Example 1:  You arrive at 7:50am to start your day at 8:00am and you slip and fall while walking to the building, your injury would likely not be covered because you were not injured during the course of employment.

 Example 2: You are assisting a customer to their car and you slip and fall. Any injury resulting from this fall is likely to be allowed because the injury occurred during the course of your employment.

Example 3: You are employed as a parking lot attendant and you are injured while performing your job duties in the parking lot. Your claim for injury is likely to be allowed. 

New Website

After months of design and planning, Atlas Law is proud to announce an all new website at AtlasLawPS.com.     Our new site is redesigned on an all new platform, and will better integrate with our Social Media platforms.  There’s also a contact page, and our texting information.    We will soon be adding more content and more information.

Post Office Delays, Checks

Over the last several weeks, we have seen an increase in delays from our post office.  Unfortunately this is beyond our control.   We do understand that this unnecessary delay is stressful to our clients, and we are increasing our efforts to minimize and reduce these delays.

Currently it takes a minimum of 2 business days, sometimes 3-4, to receive checks from the department.   We are working to shift to electronic payments from the department.  Many self-insured employers use administrators from out of state.  It can take several days to receive checks from these administrators.  There are currently no alternatives.

If you have, or establish, an account with bank with Columbia Bank, we can deposit your time-loss or pension benefits into your account the same day we receive them.  All you have to do is provide us with your account number.

Additionally, we offer text alerts for all of our clients.    You may sign up today with our office to receive free text messages when your check arrives in our office.

We understand it is frustrating when checks are delayed.

Texting

Did you know that AtlasLaw offers text messaging?

Do you pick up your check in our office?   Sign up for text alerts and receive a free text message* when your check is available!
Get text reminders for vocational appointments, IME’s, and other claim related appointments.

Stop by our office, or contact us today to sign up!

*Neither Atlas Law, or our texting provider will charge you.  Messaging and data rates may apply per your carrier, please contact them if you have questions. 

 

New Pilot Program by Labor and Industries

Posted on: 28 September 2017

By: Atlas Law

Beginning October 1, Labor and Industries is beginning a pilot program for acupuncture treatment.
If you have low back pain, associated with an accepted condition related to your Industrial Injury claim, and your attending provider believes that acupuncture may be a curative treatment option, the department may pay up for up to 10 visits to see an acupuncturist.
Additional rules apply. For more information see the department’s page at:

http://lni.wa.gov/acupuncturepilot

New Pilot Program for Accupuncture

Beginning October 1, Labor and Industries is beginning a pilot program for acupuncture treatment.
If you have low back pain, associated with an accepted condition related to your Industrial Injury claim, and your attending provider believes that acupuncture may be a curative treatment option, the department may pay up for up to 10 visits to see an acupuncturist.
Additional rules apply. For more information see the department’s page at:

http://lni.wa.gov/acupuncturepilot

PTD after PPD

Generally, if an injured worker received a Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) award for an injury and is then later found to be Permanently Totally Disabled (PTD) due to the same injury, the Department may recover payments made on the PPD award from the PTD award. However, a worker who is injured and is later found to be permanently and totally disabled (PTD) is entitled to a full pension, even if that injured worker had previously received a permanent partial disability (PPD) award from a prior, unrelated industrial injury.

In a recently published opinion( Michael L. Sims v. Department of Labor and Industries), the Court of Appeals determined that if an injured worker is found to be permanently totally disabled, they are not entitled to a permanent partial disability award for a subsequent injury.

The Court of Appeals found that the effective date of PTD is the determinative date for deciding what benefits an injured worker is entitled to under any subsequent injury claims and not the date of the Department’s decision to classify a worker as PTD. Since the injured worker in the Sims case had been classified as PTD starting at a time prior to sustaining the second injury, the Court decided that the Department’s order that denied Mr. Sims additional PPD benefits under his second claim was correct. For more information regarding PPD and PTD, please contact us for a free consultation.

Filing a claim within 1 year

Recent court of Appeals Case clarifies an injured worker’s responsibility to file a claim within one year of workplace accident.
The Washington State Court of Appeals recently issued an unpublished decision that reinforces the importance of filing a report with the Department of Labor and Industries within one year of a workplace accident. The case involved an injured worker who sustained two head injuries at work. He received first aid and then continued to work. Unfortunately, the injured worker never filed a claim with the Department of Labor and Industries. The injured worker later developed migraines, eye pain, and hearing loss. He was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury approximately two years after the initial injuries. With the assistance of his doctor, the injured worker submitted a claim with the Department of Labor & Industries. However, the Department denied the claim because the injured worker submitted his claim more than one year after the date of injury. The Court of Appeals upheld the Department’s denial, finding that the injured worker’s failure to file a claim within one year of the date of injury precluded him from recovery under the Industrial Insurance Act. [Please see our Blog article on Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim.] link to that article as well.
Workers injured on the job may avoid filing a claim with the Department of Labor and Industries or downplay their injuries for a number of reasons. Those reasons may include a fear of causing their employer “problems,” a desire to avoid “paper work,” not wanting to loose pay or a job assignment they enjoy, as well as a number of other reasons not listed here. However, many falls, cuts, and sprains can become serious injuries later if they are not treated promptly. Unfortunately, the law is strict regarding the amount of time an injured worker has to file a claim following an incident. Sadly, there is no consideration given to the many hurdles an injured worker must go through to establish a claim.
We invite you to contact us if you have had an accident at work and are not sure whether you should file a claim.

Worker Memorial Day 2016

In 2015, 58 people died from work-related causes. Among those are truck drivers, construction workers, a firefighter, a bookkeeper, a pilot, and loggers.
Those who died were someone’s sibling, child, parent, or grandparent, spouse, or a close friend.
This Thursday, April 28, 2016 is Washington State’s annual Worker Memorial day. Governor Inslee, Director Sacks from Labor and Industries, and other government leaders will memorialize those lost in 2015.
This year, we remember those workers who lost their lives. Among those killed in 2015 include:
A police officer, who died of complications from surgery related to an injury he sustained while arresting a suspect.
Three forest service workers who became trapped while fighting the Twist River fire in Eastern Washington.
A construction worker and business owner who was crushed by a wall that collapsed.
We at Atlas Law extend our best thoughts and wishes to the families of anyone who has lost a loved one as the result of a work related injury. If your loved one is killed or injured as the result of a workplace injury or exposure, and you want more information on potential benefits, please contact our office.