When are Department Orders final

nav_2aIf you have a worker’s compensation claim, whether a State Fund claim or a Self-Insured Employer claim, it is the Department of Labor and Industries that has the duty to issue orders on your claim. These orders are important to your claim and provided only a 60 day period during which you, or your employer, have the right to file a protest or an appeal. (More about this later). If you are planning to move, or if you have recently moved, it is important for you to notify the Department of Labor and Industries of your change of address. But the question sometimes arises: what constitutes “communication” of the order under the law for this is the period during which the 60 day clock ticks.

What happens if you obtain an attorney? If you have obtained an attorney and notified the Department of a change of address to that attorney, yet the Department sends the order directly to you and not to your attorney, then the order has not been “communicated” to begin the 60 day time period within the meaning of RCW 51. 52.050. (In re: David Herring, BIIA Decision, 57,831 (1981)).http://www.biia.wa.gov/SDPDF/57831.pdf

Your designated attending physician should also receive a copy of your orders. If your attending physician, as recognized by the Department, does not receive a copy of your orders, then the order is not “communicated” under the law. (In re: Mary Waldron, BIIA Decision, 09 20656 (2011)). http://www.biia.wa.gov/SDPDF/0920656.pdf It is not altogether uncommon to find that an order not protested by an injured worker is, in fact, protested by the worker’s physician This can be for a variety of reasons but reports from your doctor can be construed to represent a protest. For this reason, your doctor must receive a copy of your orders. However, you should not rely on your doctor to protest orders for you. Ultimately, the duty to protest orders is your responsibility, or that of your attorney.

Sometimes, problems arise with the mail. Orders may be delivered to the wrong mail box, you may have problems with mail being stolen, or other problems occur. In such cases, the proof required varies greatly. if you have had a problem with mail being delivered to the wrong box, if you can provide a record of a history of reporting this problem to the U.S. Postal Service, that is very helpful. Or declarations from neighbors who may have received your mail in their mailbox can be helpful. If the order is correctly addressed and has the proper postage, then there is a presumption that the order was delivered, but this presumption can be overcome with persuasive evidence you will need to provide. (In re: Edward Morgan, BIIA Decision 09,667 (1959)). http://www.biia.wa.gov/SDPDF/09667.pdf

If the problem is not that the mail was improperly delivered, but merely that you were on vacation and did not receive the order until you returned home, then it is considered to be “communicated” to you from the first day of your return from vacation. (In re: Dorena Hirschman, BIIA Decision 09, 17130 (2010)). http://www.biia.wa.gov/SDPDF/0917130.pdf Any proof you have of the first day of your return home to note the day you received your mail will be helpful in such cases.

If the order is sent only in English and you cannot read, write, or speak English, whether the order is communicated to you may depend on your access to someone to translate the order for you. If there is an English speaker in your home, for instance, then the order may still be considered to be “communicated” to you from the date it was received. If you do not speak English, it is best to notify the Department that you need all communication from the Department to be in your native language. It is best to do this in writing to the Department so that there is a written record of this communication to the Department.

Any time an order is mailed, it is not “communicated” until you receive it and understand it. If there is a problem concerning whether your protest to a Department order was made within the 60 day time limit, you should obtain the assistance of an experienced worker’s compensation attorney.