Workers Compensation - Washington

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

Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 33)

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.

 

L&I Pension – Permanent Total Disability

A catastrophic work injury or occupational disease can make work injury victims unemployable.  Here, unemployable means that the person is unable to “perform or obtain a gainful occupation with a reasonable degree of success and continuity”.  If medical treatment or vocational services cannot make the person employable, then the work injury claimant is permanently and totally disabled.  If you have an L&I claim or workers’ compensation claim, and you are permanently totally disabled, then you are entitled to “pension” benefits under your claim.

 

L&I pension payments

When the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) places a work injury claimant on pension, then their L&I claim is closed. However, the injured worker receives pension benefits for the rest of their life, so long as they remain unemployable.  L&I pays out pension benefits monthly, around the 15th of each month.  The amount depends on the worker’s salary and wages at the time of injury.  Furthermore, if the worker is married, then he or she can choose for their spouse to get survivor benefits. Simply put, “survivor benefits” means that if the work injury claimant passes then their spouse will receive the pension benefits. Under certain circumstances, this choice may also impact the monthly L&I pension amount.

 

Permanent total disability

There are many factors to consider when determining whether a work injury claimant is permanently and totally disabled.  These factors include the following considerations, among others:

1) The worker’s work pattern at the time of injury – part-time employment, full time, seasonal worker, and so on.

2) Whether the work-accident, injury, or work-related illness cause the permanent physical or mental limitations.

3) Were there any preexisting permanent (physical or mental) limitations?

4) The person’s wage-earning capacity.

5) The local labor market.

6) The worker’s strengths and weaknesses.

7) The work injury claimant’s age, education, training, and experience.

 

Based on these factors, L&I may consider the workplace injury claimant as permanently and totally disabled.  Even if a person is not physically or mentally helpless, they can still fall under the qualifications. However, we have to remember that an injured worker doesn’t have permanent total disability just because they cannot return to their former job. In fact, if the worker can perform or obtain any gainful work with success and continuity, then they are employable.

 

Employability: Are you employable?

The Department of Labor and Industries places great value on employability, for a variety of reasons.  From my perspective, there are some issues with how L&I views and evaluates employability. In my opinion, saying that someone is employable on paper is not the same as how things manifest themselves in the real world. Furthermore, it’s not uncommon for employability determinations to be based on erroneous or insufficient medical or vocational evidence.

 

Getting help from L&I attorney

As I see it, most people with a workers’ compensation claim recover from their injuries or illness and return to work. However, there are many individuals with L&I claims that need assistance to return to work.  Comparatively, only a small number of workplace injury claimants have permanent and total disability. If you have an L&I claim or a workers’ compensation claim, and the claim administrator is saying you are employable when you are not, then you should immediately speak with a workers’ compensation attorney.

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