Washington workers' compensation benefits: how to apply

How to Apply for Washington Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Important: We updated this article in November 2022 to make sure all information is both current and accurate. Unless you’re a federal employee, state law outlines who gets Washington workers’ compensation benefits and how the process works. If you were injured or got sick on the job in the Evergreen State, you should focus on getting better, not stressing about the claims process.

We’ve gathered the information you need to get the benefits you deserve.

Qualifying for Washington Workers’ Compensation Coverage

Washington workers’ compensation coverage is mandatory for all employers with at least one full-time employer.

Filing for Washington Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Important: Seek treatment immediately if you require emergency or urgent care. When you arrive, tell the doctor your injury or illness is work-related.

Every workers’ comp case is different, so your experience may vary. To make it even more complicated, the Washington workers’ comp process is different if your employer is self-insured. So the first step is to determine where to file your claim.

Click here for an alphabetical list of employers who handle workers’ comp claims directly. If your employer’s on the list, check out your claim process in this Guide to Workers’ Compensation Benefits. Otherwise, you file directly with the State Department of Labor & Industries.

If your employer isn’t self-insured, then follow these steps to file your Washington workers’ compensation claim:

1. Notify your supervisor as soon as possible.

Caution: Don’t wait to tell your employer of your illness or injury. Delaying could result in your claim being denied.

2. See a doctor.

You must initiate the claims process within a year of your injury or two years of your illness. The doctor submits an accident/illness report to the L&I within 5 days of seeing you.

Important: List all dependents on your accident report. This helps the state calculate the amount of lost wages you get if and when you’re approved.

3. Wait for a decision.

If approved, you’ll get your first benefit check within 14 days.

4. Appeal if your claim’s denied.

You can either protest L&I’s decision or appeal directly to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals.

Important: You must appeal in writing within 60 days. If you miss the deadline, the insurer’s decision is final and you lose your right to appeal.

5. Use an approved doctor in L&I’s network if you need ongoing medical care.

Pro Tip: Click here to see if your own doctor is an approved L&I healthcare provider.

Important: The maximum time-loss rate for work injuries sustained between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023, is $8,250.00 per month. Click here for more details on workers’ comp benefits.

To learn more about how Washington’s state insurance program operates, read Workers’ Compensation Benefits: A Guide for Injured Workers.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics issues an annual workers’ compensation report covering most U.S. states and territories. Here’s what the data show about the Evergreen State’s claims activity from 2016 to 2020.

The total number of claims filed reached a high in 2019 and then plummeted through 2020. Most of these changes are because of COVID-19. Claims from the service sector also declined. The number of employees who missed work, transferred, or received restrictions remained relatively steady.

Learn more about COVID-19 and Washington workers’ comp here.

Working with an experienced workers’ comp lawyer can make the process easier and faster. What’s more, these attorneys work on contingency. That means they don’t charge anything unless your claim is approved. If you do win, then you only pay a reasonable, one-time fee.

Important: Click here for tips to decide if you need a workers’ comp attorney.

Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free benefits evaluation now:

Get Your Free Benefits Evaluation

Margot Lester is the CEO of The Word Factory, a B2B & B2C content marketing agency that provides services for Fortune 100 brands, healthtech companies and SaaS developers. An award-winning business and brand journalist, she writes for daily and weekly newspapers and business journals, national magazines, in-flight publications and leading websites. Margot is also an in-demand writing coach and organizational communications trainer, helping individuals and teams write more effectively. Twitter/X: @word_factory LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/margotlester.