What is Workers' Compensation?

Workers' Compensation is a self-contained set of laws that provide benefits to workers who are injured, made sick or disabled as a result of an injury at work or their occupational duties. Workers' Compensation Acts vary from state to state, but typically provide no-fault compensation for a percentage of lost wages, medical treatment for the injury or disease, permanent disability awards and, in the event of death, payment of benefits to the worker's surviving spouse or dependents.

What do I get for my pain and suffering?

There are no benefits available specifically for pain and suffering. However, pain and suffering may lead to mental health conditions which may be covered by way of medical treatment and a permanent impairment award.

Can a Workers' Compensation claim be reopened after it has been closed?

Yes, for a claim to be reopened, you must file an Application to Reopen with the assistance of a physician and identify one or more objective medical findings of a worsened condition or identify a new condition that is related to the industrial injury or disease.

Can I sue my employer for causing my injury? What happens if my own negligence caused my injury?

You cannot sue your employer for negligence. Workers' Compensation is a "no-fault" system which means workers do not have to prove their employer was negligent and workers have a right to benefits even if they are at fault or caused their own injury. In exchange for not having to prove negligence, workers' compensation is the exclusive remedy and employers are immune from a lawsuit, except in a situation where the employer intentially caused injury to a worker.

What if my accident was caused by the negligence of someone other than myself, my employer or co-worker?

You can sue for negligence if your injuries were caused by the actions of a third-party. A worker can receive Workers' Compensation benefits while pursuing the third-party personal injury claim. Any lawsuit against a third-party must be brought within the applicable statute of limitations. The Department and/or self-insured employer will have a lien on any third-party recovery.

Who is entitled to Workers' Compensation benefits?

In Washington, all workers injured or disabled while in the course of employment are covered. This includes full-time, part-time, seasonal, sporadic and temporary workers. And, you are eligible to file for Workers' Compensation benefits regardless of whether you are a U.S. citizen, your employer is not insured for Workers' Compensation, your employer has gone out of business or your employer says you are not eligible.

My Employer or the Department want me to go to a medical evaluation they call an Independent Medical Examination. Do I have to go?

The answer is usually yes. The Department and self-insured employers have a right to request you attend such examinations at reasonable intervals of time. If you refuse to go, the Department may find you non-cooperative and terminate your benefits.

How will I pay an attorney if I hire one?

Typically attorneys are paid on a contingent fee basis for a percentage of benefits secured. Attorneys fees are legally capped at 30% fee for work at the Department level.