Workers Compensation - Washington

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

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L&I Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rate Increase in 2022 for Workers and Employers

The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) in Washington State announced premium rate hikes this week. The rate change affects workers and employers alike. Interestingly, this is the first workers’ compensation insurance rate increase in 5 years. In fact, premium rates will increase by 3.1% in 2022. Yet, even with this increase, workers’ compensation premium rates will be lower than in 2017.

 

Work injury claim insurance coverage

It’s important to remember that L&I provides workers’ compensation coverage to roughly 2.6 million workers. The insurance fund uses funds from premiums that L&I collects from employees and employers statewide. These funds cover all aspects of L&I claim expenses. This includes medical treatment benefits and wage replacement such as time-loss compensation and loss of earning power benefits. It also covers permanent partial disability awards, L&I claim settlement, and L&I claim pension payments.

 

Employers and workers pay into the workers’ compensation system to help cover insurance costs. Payments for the L&I Accident Fund provide workers with wage and disability benefits after a work injury on the job. It also covers the medical treatment for the work injury, occupational disease, or other work-related illness.

 

L&I claim insurance rate hike – reasons and background

Per L&I, the rate increase in 2022 is necessary because of rising coverage costs. Specifically, according to L&I’s announcement, costs are rising due to Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA). Furthermore, costs are increasing because of higher average wages across the state and the spike in inflation.

 

Naturally, many wonder if the increase in insurance costs has to do with coverage for COVID L&I Claims. During the pandemic, L&I helped thousands of businesses with premium payment grace periods and payment plans. However, according to L&I, it is not including COVID claim cost exposure in calculating premium rates.

 

Not all work injury rate hikes are equal

Remember, the 3.1% L&I insurance rate increase is an average. This means that certain employers and employees might see different increases (or decreases). It all depends on a variety of factors. For example, factors include things like recent claim history. Moreover, they comprise changes in the frequency and cost of claims in industry risk classes. At the same time, employees will continue to pay approximately quarter of the higher premium cost. In fact, employee’s contribution share is comparable to the contribution percentages in 2021.

 

The workplace injury insurance outlook in Washington State

In its announcement, L&I explicitly emphasized the importance of keeping rates steady and predictable. It plans to do this through efforts to prevent workplace injury and workplace illness occurrences. Additionally, L&I plans to continue to help workplace injury claimants heal and return to work.

 

Furthermore, L&I announced its goal to support recovery and provide services more early in the workers’ compensation claim process. Given this statement, I humbly suggest that L&I does a better job authorizing necessary objective diagnostic studies early in claims. That way, we won’t need to discover herniated disks, fractures, and tears two years into the L&I claim administration process.

 

What Is the Best Outcome for My L&I claim?

Work injury claimants frequently ask me about their L&I claim outcome. Following a work injury, most people with a workers’ compensation claim want to get the best outcome possible. With L&I claims, there are certain benefits available. However, from my perspective, the best outcome is securing the appropriate benefits. Furthermore, the appropriate benefits vary and depend on the facts of each workman’s comp claim. Below is a breakdown of circumstances and possible claim outcome.

 

Benefits in L&I claims

Generally, the first step in your claim is for the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) to allow your claim. Then, there are several benefits available once the claim is allowed. Medical treatment is perhaps the most important benefits. On top, there are financial benefits such as time loss compensation, loss of earning power benefits (LEP), and permanent partial disability award. After that, there are vocational benefits, claim pension, and in some cases a comprehensive claim settlement.

 

What is the best outcome for my L&I claim?

Considering the above benefits, let’s explore several scenarios and possible outcomes. For example, what is the best outcome for an injured worker who makes full recovery and has no permanent loss of function? Most likely, the best outcome is to ensure that L&I pays all treatment costs and the appropriate time loss or loss of earning power benefits while the claim is open.

 

Now, let’s consider the following case. What’s the best outcome for workers with permanent measurable loss of function that can return to their job of injury? Or to another job for which they already have the necessary skills? Here, the best outcome is probably to ensure that L&I pays all treatment costs, as well as time-loss or LEP. Additionally, when the claim closes, L&I should rate the work injury claimant for permanent partial disability (PPD). The rating should be done by a competent medical professional. Finally, the rating will result in a monetary permanent partial disability payout.

 

Best L&I claim outcome for workers that need retraining

In the cases we described above, the work injury claimant can return to work without retraining. However, what is the best outcome for someone who has permanent measurable residuals but needs retraining to return to work? Likely, the best outcome is to ensure payment for treatment costs, and proper payments for time-loss and LEP benefits. However, in this case, it’s imperative to ensure that the work injury claimant receives vocational services while the claim is open. In fact, L&I can provide up to two years of vocational retraining under the claim. Then, assuming retraining is successful, L&I should rate the injured worker for PPD at claim closure. In turn, the worker should receive the proper PPD payment.

 

 

Best L&I claim outcome for workers that cannot return to work

Next, there are workers’ comp claim cases where the work injury claimant cannot return to work. For these situations, people ask: What’s the best outcome for someone with permanent loss of body function who may or may not be capable of working? Here, as before, we need to ensure that L&I covers treatment, medical costs, and PPD or LEP payouts. Then, ask yourself if you’re 50 years old (or older), and if you may not return to work as a result of your work injury or workplace disease. If the answer is Yes, then you should consider a comprehensive settlement. Usually, this type of workers’ comp claim settlement results in a larger payout than PPD alone.

 

Finally, what’s the best outcome for a work injury claimant who has such significant permanent loss of function that they will never be capable of working again? First, we need to ensure that treatment costs, time-loss, and LEP are all paid. However, if a person is so disabled that they are permanently incapable of working, they should probably receive a L&I claim pension. An L&I pensions is frequently considered the most significant monetary benefit in L&I claims. It’s roughly equivalent to receiving time loss for the remainder of your life, or as long as the inability to work continues.

 

Closing remarks

Obviously, there are a variety of potential outcomes in workers’ compensation claims. To determine the best outcome, you must carefully assess the facts and circumstances of your workers’ compensation claim. Every claim is different. The unique scenarios and conditions for each individual claim will dictate its best outcome.

 

Passionate About Helping Injured Workers in Washington State? We Are Hiring!

Our law firm, Reck Law – Workers’ Compensation Attorneys, is adding two motivated individuals to our hard-working team. At Reck Law, we strive to achieve the best outcomes for the injured workers we represent all over Washington State. We do it through fierce advocacy at all levels of the L&I claim and self-insured employer claim process, from administration to litigation.

 

Entry level paralegal or legal assistant

We are preparing for the upcoming retirement of one of our most cherished paralegals. Therefore, we are looking for a new entry level paralegal or legal assistant to join our team. The most critical characteristic for this position is a genuine desire to help people after, particularly after a work injury. The second most critical characteristic is a strong work ethic and commitment to being a good team member. You must also be able to pay close attention to detail. Our team is vibrant and energetic. We have a lot of fun working together. We are looking for a new team member that can fit in and contribute to our work culture.

 

This entry level position requires close collaboration with other members of our team, which include senior paralegals and attorneys. Here, daily activities include regularly reviewing L&I claim file materials and completing and submitting necessary paperwork. It also includes preparing and processing a variety of correspondence and following up on requests and inquiries. Moreover, you’ll be taking and responding to client calls, and maintain a personal system for tracking tasks and deadlines. If you would like to learn more, please email office@recklaw.com for details on the application and interview process.

 

Entry level associate attorney

Most of our litigation work takes place before the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals. By far, the topmost requirement for this position is your passion to help people following a work injury to get their life back on track. After that, the second requirement is your unquestionable work ethic and your commitment to winning cases. If you think you have what it takes, this position offers a rare opportunity to train and mentor under one of the top workers’ compensation attorneys in Washington State. On top, you’ll have the opportunity to engage in all aspects of BIIA litigation from day one.

 

You will learn how to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of each case. You’ll develop successful litigation strategies. Litigation before the Board requires reviewing claim file materials in detail and understanding the issues under appeal. Furthermore, it requires identifying elements required to meet the burden of proof on each issue, being involved in preparing and responding to discovery requests, and preparing and responding to pre and post hearing pleadings. Moreover, it involves witness preparation, presenting compelling lay and expert testimony, and effective cross examination of lay and expert witnesses. If you would like to be considered, please email us at office@recklaw.com to inquire about the application and interview process.

 

Personal note from the managing attorney

Workers’ compensation isn’t easy. It’s a labor of love. However, in our experience, most people don’t realize they’re going to love it until they do. We work hard, we’re scrappy, and we have A LOT of fun. Our work environment is hyper-energetic, no BS and no drama. We pride ourselves on having a healthy work life balance. Finally, at Reck Law, we don’t discriminate. Come join us.

 

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