Workers Compensation - Washington

Tara Reck, Managing L&I Attorney at Reck Law PLLC - Workers' Compensation Attorneys

Workers Compensation Attorney and L&I Lawyer

Thank you for visiting my blog. My name is Tara Reck and I am a managing attorney at Reck Law, PLLC. Our Workers’ Compensation and L&I attorneys are dedicated 100% to representing injured workers in Washington State. We have several offices in the Puget Sound area and we represent injured workers all over the state.

If you need help with your L&I claim, self-insured employer claim, or any other workers’ compensation or work injury claim, please give us a call to schedule a free consultation. We help with claim management, appeals and litigation with L&I and the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, Washington State Superior Court, Court of Appeals, and Washington State Supreme Court, as needed.


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Reck Law, PLLC – Office Locations
Seattle & Bellevue

2731 77th Ave SE #203
Mercer Island, WA 98040

Map and directions

(206) 395-6141

2367 Tacoma Ave S #110
Tacoma, WA 98402

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(253) 999-9828

707 S Grady Way #600 Suite R
Renton, WA 98057

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(425) 800-8195
Port Orchard

219 Prospect St
Port Orchard, WA 98366

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(360) 876-4123

L&I Claim Overpayment: They Overpaid Me and Want Money Back, Now What?

The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) sometimes sends overpayment notices to work injury claimants. Receiving one of these letters can be very stressful. The purpose of the notice is to tell you that you’ve been overpaid. And yes, they want their money back.


The reality for injured workers

When work injury claimants are unable to work, their income is automatically slashed by 40%. Clearly, this creates significant financial strain and stress. After all, the cost of living is always on the rise. Consequently, many workers have no choice. They live from check to check. In reality, many workers use wage replacement benefits in their entirety to pay for housing, food, and family care. Very often, injured workers must dip into their savings to make ends meet.


L&I claim overpayment

It feels like L&I is so stingy with paying benefits that overpayments can’t possibly happen. However, overpayments are very common. Most times, when overpayments occur, it’s not the fault of work injury claimants.


Overpayments can occur for many reasons. For example, because of clerical errors or identity mix-ups. They can also happen due to wrong data or adjudicator errors. One case is when L&I computes the wage rate incorrectly. Another is when L&I pays benefits even after the injured worker is released to work. Furthermore, there are instances where L&I reverses claim closure and must recoup a previous PPD award. That said, I’ve seen many cases where L&I tries to collect an incorrect overpayment. Therefore, it’s always important to double check everything. You must take steps and check if the L&I repayment demand is correct.


Repaying L&I overpayments and the law

Under RCW 51.32.240, L&I has the right to make a claim for repayment or recoupment of an overpayment. However, they only have one year form making of the overpayment to ask for money back. If L&I doesn’t make the claim within one year, then they waive their right to  recoup funds.


The one-year limitation doesn’t apply if there are issues of willful misrepresentation. More explicitly, willful misrepresentation is when a person obtains payments or other benefits under the Industrial Insurance Act after knowingly giving a false statement or misrepresentation. It also includes cases where people omit or conceal facts intentionally to receive benefits they shouldn’t get. Willful misrepresentation does happen. Yet, in my experience, L&I sometimes incorrectly accuses workers of willful misrepresentation. This is very common in cases of innocent mistakes.


L&I overpayment after willful misrepresentation

If an overpayment occurs due to willful misrepresentation, then L&I has three years. Here, the timer starts ticking when L&I discovers the willful misrepresentation. Then, they can also demand repayment plus 50% penalty. However, there are examples when L&I doesn’t claim the repayment within 3 years. In such cases, L&I automatically waives the right for repayments.


L&I claim repayment – summary

To conclude, overpayments in L&I claims are more common than you think. L&I has one year to make a claim to recoup overpayments. Although, if there’s been willful misrepresentation, then L&I has three years to make the overpayment claim.


Regardless, L&I sometimes makes mistakes when it comes to assessing overpayments. These mistakes happen because of miscalculations or timing issues. They can also occur when L&I incorrectly blames workers of willful misrepresentation. If you feel that L&I is incorrect, it’s always a good idea to consult with an experienced attorney right away.

Caregiver Work Injury Cases and Occupational Hazards

I represent many healthcare workers in their L&I claim after a work injury. In fact, healthcare work injury occurrences can be very bad. Over time, I learned that healthcare workers face unique hazards in their workplace. This fact applies to all healthcare employees. From doctors to nurses, therapists, counselors, and support staff. Moreover, the safety issues they handle are unlike any other profession.


Caregiving workers

Caregiver refers to a worker that attends to the needs of another person with limitations. These limitations can arise after an injury, illness, or disability. At work, caregivers perform various duties. For example, they assist with mobility, transfers, and attending appointments. They also help to administer medication, change clothes, and household chores. Other examples include changing linens, attending to personal hygiene, and coordinating with a healthcare team.


Sometimes, caregivers work in pairs or teams. However, it’s far more common to find caregivers working on their own. It’s usually just the caregiver and the individual they are caring for.


Caregiver work injury scenarios

The responsibilities of caregivers cover a wide range of tasks. Therefore, they are often susceptible to injury at work. Some common caregiver workplace injuries include:

1) Low back injuries;

2) Neck injuries;

3) Knee injuries;

4) Shoulder injuries;

5) Slip and fall;

6) Hand and wrist injuries;

7) Elbow injuries;

8) Repetitive use injuries;

9) Contact infections and diseases; and

10) Injuries from combative patients.


Tips to avoid workplace injuries

For caregivers, there are several ways to avoid work injury. First, you must know your work environment. When lifting patients, make sure to use proper techniques and poses. Furthermore, take the time to fully assess every situation and possible outcomes. Think before taking actions. It’s also very important to practice good hygiene and wash your hands regularly. Finally, ask for help when you need it!


You cannot avoid all injuries. But you can try. If you get hurt at work in Washington State, you are covered under the Industrial Insurance Act. However, it’s very important to report your injury in a timely fashion. Make sure to document how the injury happened at work. Most importantly, you should seek proper medical attention without delay.


Work Injury and Negligence in Workers’ Compensation and L&I Claims

The definition of negligence in Washington State is when someone doesn’t exercise ordinary care. What does that mean? In short, it means doing something that a reasonably careful person wouldn’t do. But, it can also mean the failure to do some act that a careful person would do under similar circumstances.


Negligence in personal injury

Workers’ compensation covers cases involving a work injury. The term personal injury is much broader. It also covers injury cases outside the workplace. Outside the workers’ comp ecosystem, a negligent person can be responsible for damages. For example, when a negligent driver injures another person and their property.


Here, the injured party can take the at-fault driver to court. There, they can hold the driver responsible for damages. More specifically, damages can be the actual costs of vehicle damages. On top, damages include all medical bills. However, damages can also be for things like the pain and suffering.


Negligence in a work injury

In Washington State, the Industrial Insurance Act governs workman’s comp claims. Under the law, negligence in workplace injuries is not an issue. In fact, when injuries happen at work, the law applies no matter who’s at fault. Moreover, the same goes for negligence. It doesn’t matter if the work injury happened because of the worker’s negligence. Similarly, the same rule applies if the employer or other workers were negligent. The only exception is when there’s a negligent 3rd party.


Therefore, when the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) calculates the benefits under an L&I claim, then negligence isn’t a factor. The work injury claimant is covered by workers’ compensation and that’s it.


Injury and negligence – fact versus fiction

There are plenty of TV shows and movies about lawsuit and negligence. Hence, people are familiar with suing someone for damages. That’s one reason why many people who call my office after a work injury. Many focus the conversation on negligence. Between us – I’ve heard some truly terrible stories about employers and coworkers. If it wasn’t for workers’ compensation, I’m sure many would fall under negligence.


Here are some common examples:

  1. Employers not providing workers with proper safety equipment.
  2. Seriously hurt workers told to go back to work.
  3. After a serious injury, telling the worker to drive themselves to the hospital.
  4. Providing employees with old, faulty or broken tools.
  5. Coworkers engaging in horseplay at work causing injury to others, and
  6. Employers not taking safety hazard complaints seriously.


Frustration mounts

Understandably, this can be frustrating to work injury claimants. Workers are upset that there are no damages for negligence. Often, L&I will investigate safety violations and claim suppression. In some cases, L&I issues a fine. However, work injury claimants don’t receive additional compensation or damages for negligence. In fact, when I tell this to people that call me, many hang up in anger.


What’s the takeaway?

Negligence isn’t an issue in workers’ compensation. Therefore, it’s best to not waste your time and energy. Don’t argue about who’s at fault. There are still valuable claim benefits available for you. Most importantly, focus on getting better. Furthermore, make sure you get your benefits. They include:

  1. Medical treatment;
  2. Time loss compensation benefits;
  3. Loss of earning power benefits;
  4. Vocational services and retraining
  5. PPD awards;
  6. L&I pension; and
  7. Structured settlement or CRSA.

Focus on what matters. Get well. Go back to work if you can. And as always, please be safe out there!


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