Workers Compensation - Washington

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

Month: July 2019 (page 1 of 2)

L&I Takes Workers’ Comp Willful Misrepresentation Very Seriously in Work Injury Claims

Last month I posted about a food worker that L&I  said wrongfully obtained over $11,000 in workers’ compensation benefits. Today L&I announced that it has accused a Washington State woman with stealing over $11,000 in workers’ comp benefits. L&I has been investigating this case since 2015. Now, she has been charged criminally with first degree theft. Revised Code of Washington, Title 9A, is the relevant criminal statute. The statute allows a business or individual to be charged for theft against L&I.


What is willful misrepresentation in an L&I claim?

Here again, this story illustrates how seriously L&I takes fraud allegations. Under the Industrial Insurance Act, fraud is called willful misrepresentation. It means obtaining workman’s compensation benefits you are not entitled too. It includes intentional, conscious, or deliberate false statements and misrepresentations, omissions, or concealment of fact to obtain or increase benefits. L&I has a detailed checklist it provides self-insured administrators that outlines reporting requirements for willful misrepresentation. Simply put, in L&I’s view, it is willful misrepresentation for a person to intentionally obtain benefits they are not entitled to by willfully misrepresenting or omitting material facts.


The impact on L&I work injury claims in Washington State

According to L&I, this type of fraudulent behavior costs the system millions of dollars each year. Employers, employees, insurance carriers and Washington consumers pay the cost of fraud. These costs include lost jobs and profit, and lower wages and benefits. On top, there are increased costs for services and premiums. Fraud can be committed by employees, employers, health care providers, attorneys and others. To this end, RCW 51.48.020 allows felony (class C) charges to be filed against any employer that knowingly misrepresents to L&I the amount of payroll or worker hours. The employer is liable for up to ten times the difference in premiums due. Furthermore, the employer is liable for any reasonable expenses of auditing the employer’s books.

If interested, more information about L&I’s efforts to investigate and prosecute fraudulent behavior can be found on the L&I website.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) in L&I Workers’ Compensation Claims

In workers’ compensation we see all kinds of work injuries and occupational diseases resulting in various medical diagnoses. These things are never easy, no matter what the diagnosis. However, some conditions seem to have a straighter claim path than others. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), for one, is a diagnosis that often leads to an irregular and challenging claim path.


L&I treatment guideline for CRPS

It seems that CRPS is a somewhat controversial diagnosis. The medical community is still working to better understand the condition. However, L&I does recognize CRPS as a medical diagnosis and has a treatment guideline for it. According to L&I, there are two sub-types of CRPS. Type I is what used to be called RSD, while type II used to be called Causalgia. The central difference between CRPS type I and type II is that type II occurs following a known peripheral nerve injury. On the other hand, type I occurs in the absence of any known nerve injury.


CRPS is a relatively uncommon condition. Also, it is not necessarily the right diagnosis for individuals with widespread pain in an extremity. Typically, true CRPS develops within 2 months of an injury in a single extremity. Symptoms include burning pain and severe pain caused by something that is typically not painful (such as a breeze or very light touch). Other symptoms are swelling, irregular or asymmetrical temperature and color of the limb, irregular or asymmetrical sweating of the limb, and skin, nail and hair changes in the impacted limb. While not required, a three-phase bone scan with a characteristic pattern of abnormality can help confirm the diagnosis.


Challenges with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

One of the reasons I think CRPS becomes so challenging in workers’ compensation is because it is best treated early. Unfortunately, there are often many administrative claim related hurdles to be crossed before the condition is accepted. Consequently, early detection and treatment might not occur. CRPS is difficult because it produces extreme pain.


It makes it difficult for those who suffered a work injury to use the impacted limb. However, inactivity only worsens the condition. Therefore, studies have shown that early mobilization of a limb following an injury or surgery can help prevent CRPS. Yet, if symptoms do occur, the most effective treatment is early pain control and mobilization or restoring physical function. According to L&I, individuals with CRPS “must commit themselves to physical restoration on a 24-hour per day basis”. This is not an easy feat to accomplish.


L&I has divided treatment into six-week phases and will authorize a maximum of three phases. The first phase should include up to 5 sympathetic blocks to help control pain. The second phase should include up to 3 sympathetic blocks to help control pain. An additional 3 blocks may be authorized in the third phase as well. In addition to pain control through sympathetic blocks, the treatment phases should also include therapy and other pain control. The goal of therapy is physical restoration of function. The pain control is so that the injured worker can participate in therapy more fully.



In my experience the Department prefers for CRPS treatment phases to be carried out through a SIMP program (i.e., Structured Intensive Multidisciplinary Program). However, there are a limited number of SIMP programs throughout the State. It is not always practical for an injured worker to travel to a SIMP program for up to 18 weeks of treatment. In these cases, it can be quite difficult to coordinate treatment recommendations and authorizations efficiently.


I believe that L&I is actively trying to improve this process. I can attest firsthand to the fact that the Medical Director’s office often becomes very involved in CRPS. The goal seems to be to help treatment providers stay on track in moving these claims forward and reducing the long term disabling effects of the condition. However, the fact remains that claims involving CRPS are often irregular and challenging. More information about CRPS and the L&I Medical Treatment Guidelines can be found on the L&I website.

Super Lawyers award for Workmans Comp and Workers Comp law

Let’s face it, attorneys are gluttons for positive attention. Knowing our affection for positive recognition, numerous awards varying in objective legitimacy have been developed to recognize “top” attorneys. As a result, most attorneys are used to receiving numerous award letters throughout the year. Usually these awards require some sort of membership or other fee to be paid before the award is officially conveyed. Consequently, I’ve become quite jaded regarding awards for lawyers and question the legitimacy of most.


Each year, Super Lawyers recognizes the top lawyers in Washington through a patented multi-phase selection process. The process requires attorneys to nominate their peers. In turn, Super Lawyers performs independent research and peer evaluation. According to Super Lawyers, the Washington attorneys who receive the highest point totals during the selection process are further recognized in Washington Super Lawyers Top Lists. Super Lawyers, within the legal community, is one of the more widely accepted and recognized awards conveyed on attorneys.


With that, I am pleased to share that I have been named a 2019 Super Lawyer’s Rising Star in Washington State. I previously received this award in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. After a two-year break, I’m happy to again be recognized as a top workers’ compensation attorney. Thank you to my peers who nominated me. And, thank you to my clients who trust me to assist them as they navigate their L&I work injury and workers comp claims.

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