Workers Compensation - Washington

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

Can I Collect Unemployment While My Workers’ Compensation Claim is Open?

I’m often asked if injured workers can collect unemployment benefits while their workers’ compensation claim is open. In general, the short answer is – usually no. Injured workers cannot collect unemployment benefits and time-loss compensation benefits at the same time. Unemployment benefits are for individuals who are willing and able to work but are unable to get a job. Time-loss compensation is for people who are unable to work because of work injuries or occupational diseases.


Examples when injured workers can collect unemployment benefits

There are some circumstances whereby injured workers can collect unemployment benefits. The best example I can think of is when an injured worker is declared as capable of working but haven’t obtained a job yet. Usually, once a vocational counselor determines that an injured worker can return to work, then time-loss compensation benefits are immediately terminated. However, finding that an injured worker can return to work doesn’t mean they have a job to return too. When this happens, unemployment benefits can be a saving grace. They can provide the injured worker with some income and access to job search resources through WorkSource.


The takeaway

In summary, it is important for injured workers to know they cannot simultaneously collect unemployment and time-loss compensation benefits. However, under certain circumstances, it is fine to collect unemployment benefits. For example, when searching for a job or for options to return to work after an industrial injury or occupational disease. Additionally, WorkSource can provide many useful resources. These resources include help writing a resume, searching for available positions and work opportunities, and others.


  1. Would I be eligible for unemployment if I received a job offer from my employer while on time-loss that meets the requirements from my doctor? However, I do not wish to return to my employer where my injury occurred. I am looking elsewhere while in physical therapy.

    • blank
      L&I attorney

      June 24, 2020 at 10:59 pm

      Thank you for reaching out. I’m sorry to hear that you are in this situation. I don’t represent people in the unemployment setting and am not in a good position to say with any certainty how the unemployment department will view this situation. However, I think it is likely you would be denied unemployment benefits on the basis that you elected not to take employment you were offered. That being said, in order for a job offer to be valid, it must meet certain requirements. Would you like to schedule a free consultation so that I can ask some questions I order to determine whether you have an argument that the job offer wasn’t valid?

  2. I work at Boeing and was going to work 40 hours a week. Like all other employees in Washington I was laid off and started to claim unemployment. Out of the blue I receive a check from Boeing’s private insurer. I have since found out that it is considered an L&I payment for the first 2 weeks of “standby”. Unemployment now has been denied in total and they are seeking repayment of the initial money that I received including the extra money that I had taken out for taxes. This L&I payment is thousands of dollars less than the unemployment would have been. I have tried every way to contact unemployment with no success. Our governor instructed all to “stay home and stay safe” if it was not essential for you to be at work due to Covid. I did this but am being flat out denied all UE benefits.

    • blank
      L&I attorney

      July 24, 2020 at 5:51 pm

      Hi Jonathan. Thank you for your message. This is indeed a complicated matter. Please check your inbox for a response from our office.

  3. Hello, and thank you for this great article. My situation is that I worked as IT in an arena and broke my back in 2018. My employer terminated me in January 2019 after it was apparent that I could not perform my job 100%. I then went on full Workers Comp. I am now past my time-loss limitations and am being paid out (weekly) my settlement. I want to apply for Unemployment benefits. The compensation doctors didn’t really fix me, I am left with nerve damage, but would still like to return to work. I obviously don’t have a job to return to. Bottom line is, I am still receiving pay from Comp, just not the regular pay. Does this make since?

    • blank
      L&I attorney

      August 3, 2020 at 5:40 pm

      Hi Jessica. Yes, it makes some sense. As long as the money you are currently receiving is not total disability benefits (time loss or pension that you are getting because L&I says you are not capable of working), then you can apply for unemployment benefits and take advantage of resources such as Work Source to help you find a job.

  4. I have been on workman’s comp for 7months and it is paying me a quarter of what I make. I have a coming up eventually when they approve it and that is up to another four to six months down the road. I will lose my house and everything that I’ve worked for if it goes on like this without amount of money unemployment would make up the rest of what I am not making right now so that I am considered okay in my tax bracket of where I live. What can I do to fix this where I at least make 80% of my salary?

    • blank
      L&I attorney

      August 9, 2020 at 5:12 pm

      I had some trouble fully understanding your question, but it sounds like you are concerned about the amount you are receiving from workers’ compensation benefits.

      Here is a link to an article I wrote about how wage rates are computed in L&I claims:

      In short, if you are single with no dependents you should be getting 60% of what you were making at the time you were injured. That percentage should increase if you are married and have children. Additionally, your wages should include the value of things like health care benefits, bonuses, and room and board if you received those things as part of your employment.

      If you feel you are not being paid accurately, that you need to bring it up with L&I right away. You can contact your claims manager directly or you can work with an attorney to make sure your wage rate has been calculated correctly.

  5. If I was on partial unemployment and got hurt while being on it but now I’m getting workers comp can I still get unemployment?

    • blank
      L&I attorney

      August 13, 2020 at 5:36 pm

      Hello Jorge. While every situation is unique, it is generally not okay to collect unemployment and workers compensation benefits at the same time.

  6. I worked for a company before. I was at the part of my training about truck day. By the way I did truck with my trainer – 3700 pieces. I got hurt. Their lawyers have not paid me any workman’s comp. They are claiming it’s preexisting. It’s been 6 months. I go to the doctor weekly – didn’t before the accident. But I have no money to even go to doctor now. I’ve ran out. Can I qualify for unemployment?

    • blank
      L&I attorney

      August 20, 2020 at 4:17 pm

      Hello Stacie. If you are not receiving workers’ compensation benefits then you can certainly apply for unemployment. However, I don’t know enough about your situation so I can’t say whether you qualify for unemployment or not.

  7. What if I was injured at work and the accident happened three times on three different days because a safety hazard didn’t get corrected? And when I reported the safety hazard and incidents to the employer they immediately said I needed a form to return to work or a note from my primary doctor? Because they felt the injuries were preexisting due to me coming off of two year of no work. By order of my doctors but the last authorization had a future return to work date that I had to adhere to for general assistance cash aid. And the nurse from social services had actually stated I was incapacitated and the employer’s on site manager said I had refused medical treatment when in fact they were uninsured at time of injuries and they were delaying work comp claim admin information and never gave MPN authorization to treat til 38 days after I reported the incidents. The safety hazard still not corrected and they terminated me and then denied claims due to no medical record of injury. I was hit three separate times by falling object that fell twenty feet. Each time hitting me in head.

  8. What if you were injured at work and terminated after reporting injury. Told by supervisor that you refused medical treatment. A safety hazard didn’t get corrected making it unsafe to work and the government shutdown came and the employer delayed submitting WC claim form for thirty eight days then denied claims after terminating you and then the pandemic came and you still get no work comp benefits. Then Unemployment says you have zero award balance and exhausted all benefits but because you were on a two year continuous order from your primary doctor to do no work of any kind then after two years he gave a return to work by date so you excepted a job. But then you were hit in the head by falling object at work and have preexisting disability that made you high risk of contracting virus if exposed to. So you file for PUA benefits and are eligible to receive benefits under cares act but work comp still isn’t giving any benefit to you.

  9. I was injured in a way that prohibits me from returning to one of my jobs and im on time loss for but physical i can do my other 2 jobs which i need to keep afloat yet with covid i cant return to the other 2 jobs. Can i file for my underemployment? I am able and ready for work. My injury from my 1st job was a physial attack that has done a number and ptsd for that type of job. That is why i have doc not to do any of my other jobs or look for more any help would be great. Thanks

    • blank
      L&I attorney

      August 31, 2020 at 5:49 pm

      Hi Trisha. The answer to your question is too long to type. Can you please call our office and we’ll go over this with you?

  10. I have been collecting partial unemployment due to reduced hours (as a result of COVID) since June. I fear I might have to file a workers compensation claim due to progressive Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Will this affect my unemployment claim? I live in Washington State.

    • blank
      L&I attorney

      September 5, 2020 at 6:04 pm

      Hi Aaron. The short answer is – Maybe. If you file a claim, and if your claim is accepted, and if it is determined that you are incapable for working (regardless of COVID) because of your claim related conditions (such as carpal tunnel syndrome), then you may be entitled to receive time-loss compensation benefits. If you receive time-loss compensation benefits, you cannot simultaneously collect unemployment benefits. I hope this helps.

  11. So i just found out i couldn’t collect worker’s compensation and unemployment at the same i been doing it for 2 months. When i told my mom about it she instantly told me i couldn’t do it. I started out on unemployment until i had surgery then i start receiving my worker comp. who this affect my settlement if i as suppose to get one. what i suppose to do about this situation? Obviously stop collecting unemployment but how do i go about without them knowing or will they know? Just don’t wanna be penalize

    • blank
      L&I attorney

      September 8, 2020 at 3:00 pm

      It is generally true that you cannot collect unemployment (even partial) if you are also collecting time loss compensation. If you have collected both when you shouldn’t, it will probably not be possible to avoid having to repay unemployment. You should probably notify L&I and unemployment so they understand it was an innocent mistake. Whatever you do, don’t continue collecting unemployment while you are getting time loss compensation.

  12. Got shoulder surgery July 27 due to an injury at work. Surgery was postponed due to Covid. My compensation while out is approximately $400 less a week which makes it extremely difficult to keep up with my bills ,would I be eligible for unemployment benefits until I return to work

    • blank
      L&I attorney

      September 8, 2020 at 3:04 pm

      Probably not. Generally you cannot collect both unemployment and time loss compensation at the same time. Since time loss compensation is only paid as a percentage of what you were making at the time of injury, it is definitely a financial burden. I’m sorry to hear your surgery had to be delayed due to COVID. Hopefully you will be entitled to some permanent partial disability or PPD when your claim closes, that will help you catch up financially.

  13. I am receiving LEP payments from a previous job due to a work injury. I currently work for WA state – different line of work, less money, hence the loss of earning power compensation. Due to Covid 19 and budget shortfalls with my current job, I was forced to take one unpaid day off per week during the month of July and now have to take one unpaid day off per month through the end of the year. We were instructed to file for unemployment under shared work rules which I did. I answered ‘no’ to the question, “are you receiving any workers compensation “ when filing because I thought the question was pertaining to my current employer only., not my past employer. Anyway, I am being paid loss of earning power checks from a private insurance company from previous employer. I have not refused any work from my current employer and I am physically able to do the job I currently have – just not the job I used to have. Now unemployment is saying I wasn’t entitled to the benefits I received from them and have to pay them back. That makes no sense to me. One has nothing to do with the other. What are the rules regarding a situation like mine?
    Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *