An injury or illness that happens at your job can put your financial security at risk unless you have a way of covering your bills. In Washington, most employers must carry insurance to provide medical payments and lost wages for employees who have work-related injuries. However, accessing the benefits you are entitled to can be a lengthy and confusing process.

At Calbom & Schwab, we are here to provide you with guidance from a qualified Seattle workers’ compensation attorney. We are thoroughly skilled in handling all aspects of developing documentation of your situation and ensuring you do not miss any benefits you deserve. Contact us today to discuss how we can assist you with your claim.

Companies That Must Carry Workers’ Compensation Coverage

Nearly every worker in Washington is eligible for workers’ compensation because nearly every company must provide it. Employers must purchase coverage from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries unless they opt to be self-insured. This insurance protects workers from financial burdens and protects employers from lawsuits.

There are some situations where a company is not required to provide coverage. These are rare and include independent contractors, gardeners or maintenance workers in private homes, anyone under age 18 who works on their parent’s farm, and any employee who already has coverage under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act. 

Your employer probably briefed you on their workers’ compensation coverage when you were hired. Still, if you are unsure whether they have insurance, you should speak with a worker’s compensation attorney in Seattle. A Calbom & Schwab lawyer can advise you on your options.

What to Do When You Suffer A Work-Related Injury or Illness

Some injuries or illnesses occur from a specific incident, such as an accident involving machinery or breathing issues after exposure to a hazardous gas. Others can develop more slowly, such as repetitive motion injuries or asbestos-related illnesses. Regardless of what caused your need for workers’ compensation coverage, you should follow some specific recommendations to protect your right to claim benefits. 

To ensure you can claim coverage and provide support for your injuries, you should:

  • Notify your manager or supervisor immediately: Many companies have requirements, such as 24 hours or one week. 
  • Provide a statement of what happened: Record what happened and how. It is best to do this in writing as soon as possible so your memory is fresh.
  • Seek medical assistance: You have the right to choose your own doctor. Seek medical assistance right away with a medical professional of your choosing and file your claim for worker’s compensation. You are not required to go to a doctor selected by your employer.
  • Hire a workers’ compensation lawyer in Seattle: You may have limited time to file your claim and need help understanding the process. You must also protect your rights.
  • Do not speak to anyone about the incident: Only discuss your situation with your lawyer. What you tell other people or social media posts can be used against you by the insurance company.
  • Follow all your doctor’s orders: You must rest if you are told to, and you must attend all medical appointments. If you do not, your benefits may be terminated, and you could be made to return to work.

Workers’ compensation insurance companies are like any other insurance company. They are interested in reducing their payouts to protect their bottom line. If you do not report your accident, get medical help, and follow your doctor’s orders, insurance adjusters could claim you are not really hurt. 

They could reduce or deny your claim, leaving you with bills you should not have to pay. You do not need that additional stress when you are trying to heal. Your Seattle workers’ compensation lawyer at Calbom & Schwab can guide you to protect your claim.

Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Seattle

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) handles most workers’ comp claims. You will need to file an accident report with them after notifying your manager and seeing a doctor for a diagnosis. The doctor will certify that your problem is work-related and determine whether you can return to work. They will recommend any additional treatment you may need.

In Washington, you have one year to file an application for benefits from the date of an industrial injury. An industrial injury is an occurrence with a distinctive incident. For example, falling off of a ladder at work, or lifting something heavy at work with immediate onset of pain in your back, are examples of what would be considered an industrial injury. You also have two years to file an application for benefits if your condition is considered an occupational disease. Examples of an occupational disease would include repeated exposure to noxious fumes resulting in pulmonary dysfunction, repetitive trauma from sorting fruits or vegetables on a conveyor belt resulting in pain and dysfunction in your upper extremities, or hearing loss from exposure at work to loud noises. With an occupational disease you have two years in which to file a claim for worker’s compensation benefits from the date you receive written notice from a physician or licensed ARNP of (a) the existence of your occupational disease, and (b) that a claim for disability benefits may be filed. If you file a claim for hearing loss, there is a special rule where the two years begins from the date of your last injurious exposure to the conditions which produced your hearing loss or within one year from September 10, 2003, whichever is later.

Washington State Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Washington L&I is a state fund that supplies the financial base for paying our workers’ compensation claims in the state. As a result, they can provide various benefits to help you recover lost income while you are out of work and pay for your treatment. You may also qualify for: 

  • Reimbursement for travel expenses while you receive treatment
  • Compensation for lost or damaged personal property (car, clothing, phone, etc.)
  • Job retraining and vocational assistance if you can no longer do your former job

If you are disabled or impaired so that you can no longer work at your job of injury, a similar job with another employer, a job with your employer or a different employer that fits within the restrictions given to you by your primary care provider, you may then be eligible for vocational assistance which may include retraining in an approved plan for a job that does not exceed your restrictions. This can be important if you are affected so significantly that you cannot work full-time or work at all. In that case, you can be eligible for permanent benefits based on your partial or total disability. 

At some point, your claim will be closed. This usually occurs when a worker’s medical condition is considered to be fixed and stable, and/or when they complete their vocational retraining program if eligible for such. At the time of claim closure, you may be eligible for an award of permanent partial disability which is a lump sum of money paid based upon your impairment rating. Other workers who are not able to return to work or be retrained may be eligible for an award of permanent total disability. Permanent total disability, often referred to as pension benefits, is a lifelong monthly benefit paid to the injured worker and, depending upon the election of the injured worker, may extend to surviving eligible beneficiaries.

Hire a Seattle Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today

Facing a work injury or illness can leave you stressed about paying your bills while you are out of work. Although the option of worker’s comp insurance is available to you, you could miss out on the benefits you deserve if you do not understand how to file a claim.

The Law Offices of Calbom & Schwab have proudly served our community for over 60 years, and we stand ready to guide you through the complex insurance system. Your Seattle workers’ compensation attorney will listen to your story during a free initial consultation, then develop a plan to secure your full benefits quickly.

Let us put our expertise to work for you. We offer services in both English and Spanish and are dedicated to serving our clients with excellence and compassion. Do not wait to begin your workers’ compensation claim when we are waiting for your call. Contact us to schedule a free case evaluation today.