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

Category: Claim Settlement (Page 1 of 7)

Does L&I Pay for Pain and Suffering?

There’s no question that a work accident, injury, or occupational disease impacts the life of workers. Understandably, many work injury claimants want to know how they will get compensation for pain and suffering. Especially payments for pain and suffering under their L&I claim. Can workers get L&I compensation for pain and suffering? The short answer is No.


L&I doesn’t pay for pain and suffering

In Washington State, the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) doesn’t pay work injury claimants for pain and suffering. Why? It has to do with 2 main reasons. The 1st reason is how L&I calculates damages. For the 2nd, we need to understand how the modern workers’ compensation system developed and how it works.


Pain and suffering is a type of “damage”. Think about it this way. When you have a work injury – you hurt a body part. Moreover, you might have PTSD or trauma from your work accident. Moreover, you’re very likely to experience pain and suffering. These are examples of damages. All these damages can be a result of a workplace injury.


Filing a lawsuit – Special versus general damages

Generally, when one person or entity causes injuries to another, the injured person can sue for damages. We call the person (or entity) that caused the injury the “Defendant”. The person suffering from the injury is the “Plaintiff”. Together, we refer to the Plaintiff and Defendant as the “Parties” to the lawsuit.


If the Plaintiff successfully proves the Defendant is responsible for the injury, then the Plaintiff may receive compensation for damages. In law, we refer to “damages” as a remedy. The idea is that “damages” remedy harm by compensating the Plaintiff. More specifically, “damages” can be special or general. Special damages are things that have a set money value. For example, automobile repairs or the cost of medical treatment. However, some damages don’t have exact monetary amount. We call them general damages. Monetary compensation for things like pain and suffering is a type of general damage.


How to sue for pain and suffering damages

How much is your pain and suffering worth? Sadly, there’s no precise way to say. Often, we ask the jury to “award” damages by deciding how much they feel the Plaintiff’s pain and suffering are worth. For that, juries must be able to assign a dollar amount to pain and suffering. Then, jurors listen to the facts of the case to determine fault.


In trial, the Plaintiff presents fact and evidence to show that the Defendant is “at fault”. The Plaintiff has to show how much harm they suffered because of the Defendant’s negligence. At the same time, the Defendant can present evidence showing they were not to blame. Moreover, they can raise certain defenses and show that the Plaintiff was responsible for their own harm.


Sometimes, the Defendant successfully shows the Plaintiff was at fault for their own harm. In such cases, the Plaintiff may receive little or no damages. But, if the jury agrees that the Defendant was responsible for the Plaintiff’s harm, they can award damages. Usually, attorneys representing the Plaintiff and Defendant argue to the jury with differing numbers. They try to show what they think the damages award needs to be.


Can I sue L&I for pain and suffering?

This legal process doesn’t apply in workers compensation claims in Washington State. Under workers comp, there is no Plaintiff and Defendant. There may be disputes that arise over what L&I benefits apply in different work injury claims. However, we usually refer to the parties as the Petitioner and the Respondent. The reason is that our modern worker’s compensation system originated with something called the “grand bargain”.


In the grand bargain, workers gave up the right to sue employers for a work injury or industrial disease. In exchange, workers receive no-fault coverage. Before the grand bargain, workers used to sue employers for causing a work injury or sickness. Just like when a Plaintiff files a lawsuit against a Defendant. But then, employers can avoid paying for a work injury. They do it by raising a defense and showing the worker was responsible for their own workplace accident.


Workers cannot sue employers for work injury damages

This kind of system leads to a lot of disputes, litigation, and delays. The idea behind the grand bargain was to streamline and simplify the process. That way, work injury claimants receive “sure and certain” relief when they suffer an injury on the job. Furthermore, workers no longer need to worry about employers accusing them of causing their own injury at work. Similarly, employers no longer have to worry about workers filing lawsuits for damages.


On that basis, the Washington State Industrial Insurance Act applies regardless of fault or negligence. When deciding on L&I benefits, there is no consideration of fault or negligence. Neither by the employer or by the worker. It doesn’t matter why the work accident happened. The cause of the work injury is not important. If a worker has an allowed L&I claim, they will receive the appropriate workers compensation benefits.


Workers’ compensation benefits are important for recovery

L&I benefits help work injury claimants recover from their injuries. When applicable, they also help workers to return to work. On top, in theory, they help workers and families pay bills and get by until workers are back on their feet. More specifically, L&I benefits include things like:


  • Wage replacement benefits. For instance, time loss compensation or loss of earning These benefits help cover expenses while recovering from an industrial injury or disease. The law and L&I designed these benefits for people unable to work. They are also very useful for workers experiencing a reduction in wage earning capacity.




  • Permanent partial disability awards. L&I can provide a PPD award It happens when L&I doctors determine the work injury claimant has permanent residuals. The permanent condition must be because of their industrial injury or work-related disease.


  • L&I pension benefits. Sometimes, workers are unable to return to work because of their work injury. In fact, a worker can have severe disability because of their injury at work. Therefore, the L&I pension benefit is available for workers that are permanently incapable of returning to work.


There are no L&I benefits for pain and suffering

Different L&I benefits apply in different L&I claim cases. What benefits apply in your case? It depends on the facts of your workplace injury. However, it’s not a function of fault or negligence. Therefore, in our modern workers compensation system, work injury claimants do not receive general damages. Including general damages for pain and suffering. In Washington State, workers cannot get damages for pain and suffering from their employer or from L&I. Even if they have a severe work injury. Additionally, it doesn’t matter how complex and frustrating their L&I claim may become.


L&I attorney can help

I get many calls from angry work injury claimants. Many of them want the system to hold their employers accountable. They want to go after employers for creating an unsafe work environment. Some complain about employers failing to properly train workers. On top, they bring up a multitude of other bad employer behaviors. I also get many calls from workers that want to hold L&I accountable. They want to sue L&I for claim delays, stress, and frustration.


Personally, I can certainly understand the anger. Yet, the reality is that there is no punishment for this kind of “bad behavior”. The best remedy is advocacy. It’s important to take steps to ensure your L&I claim is moving forward appropriately. On occasion, this is something that work injury claimants can easily do on their own. However, this kind of advocacy is also something an L&I attorney experienced in workers compensation can assist with.


L&I Attorney Fees: Costs and Benefits for Injured Workers

If you’re a work injury claimant, you may need to hire a workers compensation attorney. In Washington State, we sometimes use the term L&I attorney instead. If you’re concerned about L&I attorney fees – you’re not alone. The cost of hiring an L&I attorney can be stressful for workers. In fact, some people wait too long to reach out to a workers compensation attorney. Most workers worry about the cost. I wish I could say that attorney fees aren’t a concern. Unfortunately, that isn’t true. The law allows workman’s comp attorneys to receive reasonable attorney fees for their services. However, the law also sets the limits for what they can charge.


Managing your L&I attorney fees and cost

In Washington State, the Industrial Insurance Act has rules regarding fees. And, these rules make it easier for workers to manage their L&I attorney fees. Specifically, these rules include:

1) Mandatory contingent fees

2) Fixed fee percentages for structured settlements (CRSSA)

3) L&I attorney fee and cost reimbursements for Superior Court appeals.

Below, let’s go over the 3 rules and how they affect your L&I claim benefits.


Contingent fee as one form of L&I attorney fees

Outside the workers’ compensation setting, most attorneys charge a retainer. The retainer is an upfront fee. Clients pay the retainer before receiving legal services. After that, clients typically pay an hourly rate. In contrast, a workers compensation attorney doesn’t charge a retainer. Similarly, an L&I attorney fee isn’t hourly. In fact, under RCW 51.52.120, the law allows a workers compensation attorney to charge a reasonable “contingent fee”. This fee is up to 30% of the monetary benefits that an L&I attorney gets for his or her client. So, a workers compensation attorney doesn’t collect fees unless the worker receives payments from L&I. Namely, these L&I monetary benefit payments include:

a) Time-loss compensation benefits

b) Loss of earning power benefits

c) Permanent partial disability (L&I PPD) awards

d) Permanent total disability or L&I pension benefits.


Again, the 30% contingent fee comes out of these benefits. That is, after the L&I attorney helped their client secure them. Obviously, sharing a percentage of these benefits can cause significant stress. However, contingent fees are best in a worker compensation claim. Why? Because they ensure that the worker and the L&I attorney both have “skin in the game”. The L&I attorney doesn’t receive payments until the worker also receives them. Most importantly, contingent L&I attorney fees ensure that workers have early access to legal representation.


L&I claim resolution settlement agreements & fixed fee

Claim Resolution Settlement Agreement (CRSA) is a new way of resolving L&I claims. It’s the “new version” of CRSSA. Here, instead of continuing with the L&I claim, the worker and L&I decide on a monetary settlement. In short, the worker gives up the claim. In exchange, L&I pays the worker to walk away. So, let’s say an L&I attorney secures a CRSA. Then, under RCW 51.52.120(3), the L&I attorney fee for securing the CRSA is 15%.


Superior court appeals

Workers can appeal L&I decisions. Appeals take place at the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals (i.e., the Board). First, let’s go over the steps of the Board appeal process. If the matter goes to a full hearing, the Board judge will issue a Proposed Decision & Order. Then, any party that disagrees with the decision can file a Petition for Review. Next, the Board will either deny or grant the petition. Finally, the Board will issue a Decision and Order.


Either party can disagree with any of these Board rulings. Therefore, either party can file an appeal to Superior Court for a Bench trial or Jury trial. In a Superior Court appeal, the law presumes the Board’s decision is correct. Hence, the appealing party has the burden of proof. Now, let’s discuss how this affects your L&I attorney fees.


L&I attorneys fee and cost reimbursement in successful Superior Court appeal

If successful, under RCW 51.52.130, the Superior Court may award L&I attorney fees and costs. To clarify, this means L&I or the self-insured employer will reimburse the worker for their workers compensation attorney fees. Put another way, the law will award attorney fees if Superior Court does 2 things. First, if Superior Court reverses or modifies the Board decision. And second, when Superior Court grants more relief to a work injury claimant.


Furthermore, trial witnesses cost money. Especially when it comes to medical testimony. The Court may waive these witness fees upon a successful outcome. Therefore, winning a Superior Court appeal can have many benefits. And that’s on top of securing your L&I benefits. However, remember, reimbursements only apply in successful Superior Court appeals. In contrast, fee and cost waivers aren’t available when working with L&I or the Board. It’s only available when an L&I attorney litigates your claim in Superior Court.


Takeaways and final remarks

In summary, work injury claimants may need to hire an L&I attorney, resulting in fees. Contingent attorney fees will be a percentage of the monetary L&I benefits. For percentages, L&I attorney fee will always be 30% or less. In CRSA, the law limits the fee percentage to 15%. Typically, L&I and self-insured employers aren’t responsible for paying your L&I attorney fees. However, a worker may make a successful appeal to Superior Court. There, the Superior Court may order L&I or the self-insured employer to pay attorney fees and costs.


Workers’ Compensation Attorney Fee and Costs in Washington State

People call me every day to consult about their workplace injury claim. Some of them are looking for representation. Almost always, attorney fees are a concern. The purpose of this article is to explain all L&I attorney fee considerations and costs.


Do I need an attorney after an injury at work?

Many work injury claimants can manage their claim on their own. Some people call it the “DIY” method. If you have an L&I claim, you don’t always need a workers’ compensation attorney. Moreover, the same applies to self-insured employer claims. Many people, especially with simple claims, can manage themselves just fine.


The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) oversees all work injury claims in Washington State. Certain times, there are situations where you want to involve an L&I attorney. For example, when you have a claim appeal at the Board of Appeals. There are other cases where it’s best to have an attorney for your L&I claim. For instance, if your claim is complex, it’s probably best to let an attorney manage the claim.


Workers’ comp attorney fees are not like others

Many workers assume that L&I attorney fees are similar to other areas of law. If you ever dealt with other attorneys, then you probably know how they work. First, they charge you an initial retainer fee. Then, they bill a certain dollar amount for each hour of work. That’s not how it works with workers’ compensation attorneys.


Here, in Washington State, we have the Industrial Insurance Act. Under the act, work injury attorneys must work on a contingent fee basis. This means we get paid from the benefits we secure for our clients. In fact, we cannot charge on an hourly basis. It’s not allowed.


L&I attorney fee – Maximum limits

By law, an L&I attorney can charge a reasonable contingent fee. In general, the fee cannot be more than 30% of the L&I benefits that we secure. For structured settlements or CRSA, the L&I settlement fee is 15%.


Some claimants think that if they win their case, then the other side will pay their workers’ comp attorney fee. That’s not true for board appeals. It’s also incorrect for benefits at the Department level. However, most workers’ compensation attorneys charge less than 30%. It mostly depends on the amount of work it takes to secure the benefits. In other words, if less work is required, then the fee percentage gets lower.


Cost of L&I claim appeal

Appeal costs are different from attorney fees. Overall, costs refer to the money you need to win a board appeal. To win, you must meet the burden of proof. Here, costs come from things like ordering medical records and paying court reporters. On top, you must pay expert witnesses for their time. Good witnesses spend time preparing and then giving a thorough testimony. Win or lose, these costs are the responsibility of the work injury claimant.


Workers’ compensation and free consultation

A workers’ compensation claim can be very complex. Furthermore, hiring an attorney is not an easy decision. Therefore, it’s important to think and decide if hiring a workers’ compensation attorney makes sense for your case. That’s why most L&I attorneys offer free consultation. During the consultation, the attorney can explain your situation. A good L&I lawyer will help you figure out if hiring an attorney is the right thing to do.


It’s important to have a candid and genuine conversation with the attorney during a consultation. It’ll help you make a fair assessment about your claim. Personally, I’m always happy to help work injury claimants understand all their options. Many times, I tell people they don’t need an attorney and I explain why. However, if you think you need L&I claim help, feel free to give my office a call. Let’s chat and make sure you’re on the right track.


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