How to Apply for Washington Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Washington workers' compensation benefits: how to apply

Every state has its own specific laws for handling workers’ compensation benefits claims from injured employees. (Federal workers are the lone exception, since they all file claims the same way regardless of location.) If you get hurt or sick on the job in Washington state, follow the steps below to apply for benefits. Then, see how the Washington workers’ compensation program changed from 2012 to 2016 in our interactive chart below.

Is Your Employer Self-Insured for Washington Workers’ Compensation Coverage?

Washington workers’ compensation coverage is mandatory for all employers with at least one full-time worker in this state. The only question is, who provides your employer’s insurance policy? According to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, one-third of you will file claims with your self-insured employer. All remaining employees with workplace injuries or illnesses will file their Washington workers’ compensation claims with L&I directly. No matter who handles your claim, your rights, benefits and deadlines to apply for benefits won’t change. However, the paperwork you’ll need to file, which doctors can treat you and who pays your benefits will vary.

Click here for an alphabetical list of self-insured employers that handle Washington workers’ compensation claims directly. If your employer’s on the self-insured list, learn more about your claim process in A Guide to Workers’ Compensation Benefits.

How to File Your Washington Workers’ Compensation Claim

If your employer isn’t self-insured, follow the steps below to file your Washington workers’ compensation claim with the L&I department:

  1. Seek medical treatment immediately after your accident and tell the doctor your injury is work-related. State law requires your employer to keep a first-aid kit in the workplace, but go see a doctor anyway. Minor injuries can lead to complications or get worse if you don’t seek treatment from a doctor right away. Plus, any emergency room or healthcare provider in Washington state has the forms you need to file your claim.
  2. Notify your supervisor about your workplace illness or injury as soon as possible. You have one year from the date you got injured on the job to file your claim. For occupational illnesses (like mesothelioma or hearing loss), you have two years from your diagnosis date to file your claim. If you miss the deadline that applies to your situation, you may forfeit your right to claim workers’ comp benefits.
  3. Be sure to list all dependents on your accident report before your doctor submits it to L&I within five days. They need this information to calculate how much money you’re owed in lost wages if they approve your claim.
  4. If you need ongoing medical care after filing your claim, you must use an approved doctor in L&I’s network. Click here to see if your own doctor is an approved L&I healthcare provider.
  5. You’ll get a letter and information packet in the mail telling you whether your claim is approved or denied. If your claim’s approved, you should expect your first benefit check within 14 days after submitting your report to L&I.
  6. If your claim’s denied, you can protest L&I’s decision or appeal directly to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals. No matter how you choose to appeal your claim’s denial, you must do so in writing within 60 days. Once that deadline passes, state law says the insurer’s decision is final and you lose your right to appeal.

Every Washington workers’ compensation case is unique. Since the process for claiming benefits varies depending on your employer, your experience may be different than what’s shown above. To learn more about how Washington’s state insurance program operates, read Workers’ Compensation Benefits: A Guide for Injured Workers.

Washington Workers’ Compensation Statistics

Workers’ compensation programs in almost every U.S. state are included in the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)’ annual statistical report. These reports show total claims filed, how many employees missed work or changed jobs, and data for different job sectors. Our chart below shows how the Washington workers’ compensation program changed between 2012 and 2016.

The Washington workers’ compensation program over this five-year period may be the most stable one we’ve covered to date. In fact, the only notable change happened from 2015-2016, when injured workers filed 2,900 fewer claims total YoY. That same year saw the biggest jump in employees who missed work, transferred to different positions or received job restrictions. And service-industry workers consistently filed the most Washington workers’ compensation claims every year during this period. Those employees accounted for 53%-56% of all benefits claims filed from 2012 to 2016, according to BLS report data.

You May Qualify for Legal Assistance With Your Washington Workers’ Compensation Claim

Washington workers’ compensation claims for self-insured employers pose a unique challenge, since you’re dealing with who you work for directly. If you want a second, unbiased opinion about your case without alerting your coworkers, let us help you.

A workers’ comp attorney can meet with you privately in person and give you free, confidential legal advice. This initial consultation is always free, and it doesn’t obligate you to hire that lawyer to handle your claim. If you believe you’re not getting all the workers’ comp benefits you deserve, we strongly recommend talking to a lawyer. It’s the best way to get paid the most benefits you’re owed for your injuries, including lost wages.

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

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