Senate OKs Lump-sum Workers Comp Buyouts

The Washington State Senate passed landmark state workers compensation reform legislation on March 5, 2011.  It was embodied in SB 5566.

The Senate-approved measure would drastically change Washington State’s workers’ compensation system by establishing an option for lump-sum settlements for claimants who are looking at long-term disability (pension benefits).  Under the Senate version of the SB 5566, any worker who is eligible for vocational retraining can elect to decline vocational services and instead receive a one-time disability settlement.  The amount of the settlement would be equal to one-third of the value of the pension annuity calculated as though the worker had been found totally and permanently disabled.  The settlement would be paid in a lump sum, and the worker’s claim would be closed.  A settlement recipient can reopen his or her claim for medical treatment only upon a showing of worsening medical conditions.

The Washington State Labor Council will work to defeat SB 5677 in the House.  Why? Under SB 5566, unscrupulous employers would be able to pressure injured workers into taking a smaller, one-time payment, instead of the life-time compensation to which they are currently entitled.  The average injured worker facing long-term disability is extremely vulnerable—they have lost their job, perhaps their career and livelihood, have lost function or range of motion, often are in pain, are suffering from a loss of esteem and identity, and are facing a myriad of personal and family stress points.  This does not put the injured worker in an enviable position to prevail in a dispute with their employer or more likely the attorneys of their employer’s third party administrator or Retro Association.

Tell your legislator to vote NO on SB 5566 to protect our injured workers.