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.

   

Send me a message

Call for free consultation

 
Reck Law, PLLC – Office Locations
Seattle & Bellevue

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

Map and directions

(206) 395-6141

Tacoma

2367 Tacoma Ave S #110
Tacoma, WA 98402

Map and directions

(253) 999-9828

Renton

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

Map and directions

(425) 800-8195
Port Orchard

219 Prospect St
Port Orchard, WA 98366

Map and directions

(360) 876-4123

L&I Claim Closed – How to Reopen a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Washington State?

If the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) closes your L&I claim or workers’ compensation claim, then you might be able to reopen it. However, if your L&I claim closed, it’s important to note that L&I doesn’t automatically reopen claims. In fact, your case must meet certain criteria to reopen an L&I claim. Yet, many work injury claimants get discouraged and give up instead of trying to apply to reopen their workers’ compensation claim.

 

My L&I claim closed – Now what?

In fact, some medical providers believe that L&I does not reopen claims. Other treating professionals think that the reopening process is too difficult. This is simply not true. It’s important for both people with a work injury claim, and for medical providers, to fully understand the reopening process and requirements.

 

In claims for physical work injuries, to reopen a workers’ compensation claim, you must show that certain conditions objectively worsened between terminal dates. If you want to determine whether these criteria are met, you must first understand some workers’ compensation concepts. These three basic concepts are: (1) Terminal dates; (2) Causal relationship of conditions; and (3) Objective worsening.

 

Terminal dates in a workers’ compensation claim

When you file an application to reopen an L&I claim, the term “Terminal dates” refers to two important dates. The first terminal date is when L&I closed your claim most recently. The second date is when L&I denied the most recent reopening application. Take the most recent date of the two. We denote this terminal date as T1. Next, the second terminal date (which we call T2) is the date when you filed the most recent application to reopen your workers’ compensation claim.

 

Causal relationship in L&I claim

We say that conditions are “causally-related” if the industrial injury or occupational disease is the proximate cause of said conditions. Here, proximate cause means a cause that, in a direct sequence, produces the condition. The law acknowledges that there may be more than one proximate cause. Therefore, the industrial injury or occupational disease must be one of the causes of the condition.  Said differently, it doesn’t need to be the only cause. Furthermore, a condition can also relate in a causal manner if the industrial injury or occupational disease aggravated it or worsened it.

 

Causal relationship requires medical reasoning. Here, you must obtain a written medical opinion to show that the work injury or work illness caused the condition. In other words, you must find a doctor or a competent medical expert to say there is a causal connection and explain why. Remember, reopening requires worsening of causally related conditions. Hence, we must first identify the condition and the causal relationship.

 

L&I sometimes reopens claims for worsening of a condition. For instance, if doctors did not diagnose or relate a condition to the claim before claim closure. If the medical evidence supports that the condition relates to your work injury, or that the condition worsened and requires treatment, then L&I will reopen the claim.

 

Objective worsening in work injury claim

If you have a workers’ compensation claim, then L&I considers anything that you say as subjective. For example, saying that you are experiencing pain increase is subjective. It’s insufficient for claim reopening purposes. Alternatively, objective findings are ones that a medical provider can see, feel, or measure. To reopen a claim, a medical provider must show that the causally related conditions got worse between the two terminal dates. Additionally, these conditions must require treatment, or increase your disability level.

 

Here is an example. Say that you were hurt at work and your work injury caused a herniated disc. The doctors can clearly see the disk herniation on MRI.  Practically speaking, the doctors can measure the actual size of the herniation.  Based on the initial size, they determine that the disc is not impacting the nerves. Therefore, you do not need surgery and your treatment concludes.

 

Next, the claim is closed.  Over time, the herniation gets worse and causes additional symptoms.  Doctors get a new MRI where they see that the herniation is bigger.  Now, the disc is impacting the nerves and needs surgery. Right then, you should file an L&I reopening application, and L&I should grant it. Moreover, if reopening occurs within 7 years of the initial claim closure, you may receive additional monetary benefits such as time-loss compensation and increased PPD.

 

Final remarks

If you want to reopen an L&I claim or a workers’ compensation claim in Washington State, you have to understand some basic terms. However, it’s not difficult to learn and understand them. It’s also not difficult to reopen your claim. If the conditions that relate to your claim objectively worsened, then you should apply to reopen your claim. Furthermore, with objective worsening, there is no reason for L&I to deny your claim reopening application.

 

L&I Covid-19 Premium Deferral Program and the L&I Accident Fund

The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) administers workers’ compensation benefits in Washington State. These include financial benefits such as time-loss compensation, loss of earning power, work injury pension, and more. Furthermore, benefits include medical treatment, evaluation, vocational services and retraining, and others. Also, self-insured employers administer their claims according to the requirements of the Industrial Insurance Act.

 

L&I premium payments for employers and employees

A few weeks ago I posted an article  about the health of the L&I Accident Fund.  There, I discussed how historic rebates depleted the fund and led to significant premium hikes. However, these last few months, COVID-19 impacted our economy greatly. Therefore, we must be especially careful to maintain the health of the L&I Accident Fund.

 

Typically, employers pay their L&I insurance premium on a quarterly basis. L&I premium payments for the second quarter of 2020 are due July 31st, 2020.  However, according to a recent L&I news bulletin, employers that experience financial hardship and cannot pay their workers’ compensation premiums can request a 90-day payment deferment. Under this relief package, L&I will give employers until November 2nd, 2020 to pay those premiums for the second quarter of 2020. These premiums cover the months of April, May, and June of 2020. Interestingly, this is the second premium extension this year. Recall, L&I already extended the premium deadline for the first quarter of 2020 to July 31st, 2020.

 

Why is L&I extending the premium payment period?

In extending these premium payment deadlines, L&I acknowledges that the Corona-Virus pandemic continues to impact employers financially. As a result, employers may either request a 90-day extension for payment or a 90-day payment plan. Regardless of the request, L&I will not penalize employers. Furthermore, late payments will not incur interest charges as long as employers pay the premiums within the 90-day extension period.

 

However, it’s important to note that employers are not automatically eligible for the premium-payment extension program. If granted, employers must still file quarterly reports on time by July 31st, 2020.  Here, to take advantage of the program, employers must contact the L&I Collections, Education and Outreach Unit and apply. You can reach this unit via email at dialercollections@lni.wa.gov or by calling 1-800-301-1826.

 

The impact of the extension on the L&I Accident Fund

The 90-day deferment option seems like a reasonable way for L&I to help employers. After all, many employers are experiencing significant financial impact due to COVID-19. Moreover, L&I’s actions will help maintain sufficient level of funding for the L&I Accident Fund. And yet, it’s critical that we monitor the financial health of the fund. The L&I Accident Fund is the safety net for work injury victims. Despite the economic impacts of the pandemic, we must ensure that the Accident Fund remains stable and intact.

Work Injury and Workplace Accident Heroes: Nominate Workers That Saved Lives

A workplace can be dangerous. It can even be deadly. When disaster occurs, many workers respond heroically to help coworkers and others, and save lives.

 

Coworkers rushing to save fellow employees in a construction work accident

I recently posted about the heroic efforts of several workers in a trench collapse at a wind farm near Rainier, Washington. The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) cited and fined several employers for the incident.  Most importantly, we must remember that several construction workers risked their own lives. Those brave workers jumped into the trench to try and rescue their fellow workers.

 

Police officers saved lives after public shooting

Similarly, three police officers were recognized in the news and other media outlets for lifesaving efforts in Des Moines, Washington.  Very recently, on July 13, 2020 there was a shooting incident near a Metro stop in Kent, Washington, injuring six people.  An off-duty Des Moines K-9 police officer, Doug Weable, was in his patrol car. The police dispatcher flagged him down to help.  Immediately, the officer went to work using a shirt to apply a chest seal to 15-year-old victim.  In parallel, Officer Weable directed a bystander to move another 16-year-old victim onto his side to aid in his breathing.

 

Two other officers, Johnny Tyler and Shay LaMarsh responded to the scene and used advanced medical training to assist with other victims.  Luckily, these officers were trained in combat first aid alongside Army Rangers and Special Forces medics at Joint Base Lewis McChord near Lakewood, Washington.  Consequently, following their quick actions, the officers saved the lives of the shooting victims.  There’s no question that these officers acted heroically to save the life of others.

 

There are many work-injury heroes among us

While these officers received public credit, there are many workplace heroes that did not. For example, those fearless construction workers that helped after the trench collapse accident. However, that’s why every year, the Washington State Governor honors workplace heroes at the Governor’s Industrial Safety and Health Advisory Board  (GISHAB). This year, the Governor is presenting the awards at the virtual GISHAB conference occurring September 21-25, 2020.

 

Workplace hero nominations

If you know of live-saving incidents that occurred between June 1, 2019 and May 31, 2020, then you can nominate your fellow workers. All workers of a state-funded or self-insured employers are eligible for nomination.  Here, the most important nomination criterion is that a nominee performed hands-on aid. This is especially important for law enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians (EMT). To qualify for consideration, those and other similar professions must perform a lifesaving action beyond the call of duty.

 

This year, the deadline to nominate is July 31, 2020. Furthermore, the Governor will give out a humanitarian award to workers who tried to render lifesaving assistance to others, unsuccessfully. Workplace hero nominations can be submitted on the GISHAB website.  Finally, the registration for the Virtual Governor’s Industrial Safety & Health Conference  opens in August.

 

« Older posts