Workers’ compensation is a vital program for the safety and health of our workforce in Washington State. It is relatively straight forward, and the Industrial Insurance Act governs the Workers’ Compensation system. However, in my experience, most people don’t really know how the system works.
Understanding workers’ compensation claims and L&I claims
Here are seven of the most common misconceptions about workers’ compensation claims.
Medical provider – Work injury claimants must see the doctor that the employer or L&I chooses
If you had an injury at work, you can see any provider that you choose. It doesn’t have to be the provider that the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) or the employer say you should see. If the provider is a member of the Medical Provider Network or MPN. There are thousands of providers in the MPN. In fact, there is a good chance your primary care provider is a member of the MPN. Here is more information about the MPN and finding a doctor for your L&I claim.
L&I claim settlement – Injured workers get workers’ compensation claim settlement at the end of the claim
Technically, this is not true. People with work injury may or may not receive an L&I claim settlement at the end of their claim. Many work injury claimants receive what is called a Permanent Partial Disability or PPD award at the end of their claim. The award is based on the PPD rating. However, this isn’t a settlement and there is no guarantee that you will receive this award.
Employment – A PPD award will impact future employment
Some individuals with a work injury claim have concerns about PPD and PPD ratings. They think that rating means branding or labeling them as “disabled”. In turn, many believe it will impact their chances to find work in the future. This isn’t necessarily true. As an injured worker, the most important thing is for you to not exceed your permanent limitations in any future employment. Additionally, you don’t have to disclose your PPD award when seeking employment in the future.
Job of injury – The employer must hold your job or cannot terminate you
Employers cannot to retaliate when someone files a workers’ compensation claim. However, they are not obligated to keep a person’s job while they are off work due to a work injury or occupational disease.
Attorney fees – L&I covers the cost of a workers’ compensation attorney
Unfortunately, this is not accurate. Workers’ compensation attorneys work on a contingent fee basis. By law, fees are taken as a percentage of the monetary award that a work injury claimant receives under their L&I claim. There is one exception where a judge may award attorney fees.
Filing lawsuit against employer – You can sue L&I, the employer, or the claim manager for wrongdoing
This is false. As frustrating as workers’ compensation claims can be, there is no legal option for suing L&I, employers, or third-party administrators. In other words, it doesn’t matter how L&I, or your employer handle your claim. You cannot sue them for it.
Maximum medical improvement means L&I will close your claim
When some work injury claimants reach maximum medical improvement or MMI, their claims can close. However, this isn’t always true because some claims can remain open even after treatment is complete. Remember, if you reach maximum medical improvement and you are unable to return to work, you may still be eligible for vocational training services. Finally, vocational retraining can take up to two years.