Washington workers' compensation benefits: how to apply

How to Apply for Washington Workers’ Compensation Benefits

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.

Related: How to Apply for West Virginia Workers’ Compensation Benefits

How to File Your Washington Workers’ Compensation Claim

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

  1. Seek medical treatment immediately and tell the doctor your injury’s work-related. State law requires your employer to keep a first-aid kit in the workplace, but see a doctor anyway. Any emergency room or healthcare provider has the forms to file your claim.
  2. Notify your supervisor about your accident as soon as possible. You have one year from your injury date to file your claim. For occupational illnesses, however, you have two years to file.
  3. List all dependents on your accident report before your doctor submits it to L&I within five days. They need this to calculate how much in lost wages you get if they approve your claim.
  4. If you need ongoing medical care, 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 you’re approved or denied. If approved, expect your first benefit check within 14 days.
  6. If denied, protest L&I’s decision or appeal directly to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals. Whichever method you choose, you must appeal in writing within 60 days. Once that deadline passes, the insurer’s decision is final and you lose your right to appeal.

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 from 2012 to 2016.

The Washington workers’ compensation program during 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 either 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.

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 give you confidential claim advice over the phone at no cost to you. This initial consultation is always free, and it also 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 maximize your benefit payments and speed up your claim’s approval time.

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

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Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.