Generally speaking, once a Worker’s Compensation claim is closed, a worker has the right to reopen that claim if the condition objectively worsens. There are some time limits that apply. If you applied to reopen within seven years of the closure of your claim, you have a right to obtain further medical treatment, consideration of time loss benefits, consideration of increased permanent partial disability, and further vocational rehabilitation or even pension benefits. Reopening applications that are filed after the 7 years are more limited in what benefits might be paid.
Re-Opening After a First Final Closure
The seven-year time limit begins when there has been a closure of the claim, with no protest or appeal made from the closure of that claim. This is what is called a first final closure. If it can be shown that, within 60 days of the Department’s closure of your claim, that a letter, memorandum, or note was filed with the Department of Labor and Industries, and if that note or memorandum, or letter indicates further action needs to be taken under the claim, this can be considered a protest to the closure that is yet to be adjudicated. It can breath significant life into a dormant claim.
Denial of Your Re-Opening Application
Whenever you have applied to reopen your claim, if a re-opening application is denied by the Department, you should consult with an attorney to review the file for the potential of any protest filed around the time of the original closure. If there was a protest to the closure then there is no need to prove objective worsening in order to get the claim reopened.
Reopening applications that are filed beyond seven years from a first final closure will only be reopened to allow medical treatment. You should be also aware of the fact that even if it is over seven years, under the right circumstances, the director of the Department of Labor and Industries can authorize payment of all benefits.
Medical Review May Be Required
Proving objective worsening of an industrially related condition often requires a careful review of the entire file with your medical sources. It can be helpful to have an attorney involved to assist your doctor in finding the necessary “objective” findings.
Reopening of claims for injuries that don’t have objective findings, do not require showing an objective worsening. These might include mental conditions, headaches, etc.