Tacoma Work Injury Lawyer
Unfortunately, being injured on the job is very common in the state of Washington. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 77,600 people were injured at work in Washington in 2021, a rate of 3.5 workers per 100. This is higher than the national average. More than two-thirds of these injuries involved days away from work, transfer, or work restrictions (known as DART).
You may need a work injury lawyer if you’ve been injured or suffered an occupational illness. Workers’ compensation, known as labor and industries (L&I) insurance, is very complicated in our state. You need as much information and assistance as possible to ensure you receive all the compensation you deserve. Call the Tacoma work injury lawyers at 206-741-1053 for a consultation.FREE CONSULTATION
Our Work Accident Law Firm in Tacoma Provides Caring Representation for Injured Workers
When you are injured at work, your first thought may be to get well so you can return to work immediately. Even if your employer isn’t trying to pressure you, being out of work can be financially stressful. There is a delay while the doctors determine your degree of injury and impairment, which can seem to last forever if you’re not getting a paycheck.
At Strong Law in Tacoma, we use our skills to get the best outcome for all our clients. Our attorneys and legal team are available 24/7 for our clients. Strategy and timing are essential for winning the best results in the courtroom and at the negotiating table.
Our Core Principles Are Integrity, Effort, and Advocacy for Our Clients
Strong Law knows how big insurance companies operate. We’ve worked for some of the biggest and decided our talents would be better used in defending personal and workplace injury victims rather than corporate insurers. We understand how they operate, and this knowledge has served our clients well when it’s time to negotiate.
Strong Law has a 98% success rate in the courtroom thanks to our experience and knowledge, and we have satisfied clients throughout the Northwest. You want the best when you need an attorney to review your case. We like to think that’s us.
You may not know if you’re being treated fairly if you’re not certain of your rights. You may have questions about how the insurer or your employer is handling your case. You have a right to have your attorney review the case and advise you on how best to proceed. When you have questions or concerns about your work injury case, call Strong Law at 206-741-1053 for a consultation. We will give you our honest opinion about your best course of action.
How Our Work Injury Lawyers in Tacoma Work for You
There are two types of workers’ compensation claims in Washington. There is an industrial injury claim and an occupational disease claim. When filing your L&I claim, you must explain your type of injury and why you believe it is work-related. If you don’t do so correctly, your claim may be denied or sent back for correction.
An “industrial injury” is what most people mean when they say they were “injured on the job.” If you have been hit by a truck at the loading dock, fallen off a scaffold, or tripped on the stairs, you have suffered an industrial injury. Another way to think of it is an “acute” or immediate injury.
An occupational disease is “a disease or condition that arises naturally out of conditions of the worker’s employment that are unique to the place of employment.” It sounds complicated, but there are some easy examples. For example, working a jackhammer eight hours a day and developing numbness in your hands may be considered an occupational disease. Your hands are not injured on any one day, but over time you have developed nerve damage leading to numbness.
Why You Need a Lawyer for On-the-Job Injury
L&I often rejects occupational disease claims because they are filed as if they were industrial injury claims. Before the insurer can accept them, you need to show that an injury was caused by your job and not by other factors in your life.
You will need a medical history that shows you have received treatment for this condition and show a connection between your job and your illness. Your workplace attorney can help you, and your doctor can establish the link in a way that the insurance company will need.
If you have already filed your claim and it has been denied, you have the right to appeal it. However, appealing a claim is a complex and deadline-sensitive task that should always be done with the assistance of an attorney.
Filing an L&I Claim
If you’ve been injured on the job, the first thing you must do is notify your employer. This is not something you “should” do; you are required by law to tell your employer immediately or as soon as you reasonably know you’ve been injured.
For instance, if you fall off a scaffolding, you may be transported by ambulance, and your employer may “know” immediately that you were injured. On the other hand, if you have developed a nerve injury from using a machine, you may not know until the doctor gives you your test results. But you must tell your employer as soon as you know.
You need to get medical treatment even if your injury doesn’t seem serious. Some injuries, such as head and spinal injuries, can take time to develop. Just because you feel “fine” immediately after the injury does not mean you’re not seriously hurt. Other injuries, such as minor cuts and scrapes, may not seem worth reporting. You just put a Band-Aid on at the first aid office and go back to work. However, your employer still has to notify L&I, so you need to report even minor scrapes and bruises.
After you have notified your employer, you have one year from the date of an industrial injury or two years from the date of notification of an occupational illness to file your workers’ compensation claim. More time is given for an occupational illness because it can take longer for these illnesses to develop and be connected to the workplace.
The “date of filing” is held to be the date that the L&I office receives your claim documentation, and the State is very strict about the deadline. They will not accept a claim that is even one day late without an extraordinary excuse. The burden is on the claimant (you) to prove you could not file your claim within the one-year window.
Workers’ compensation aims to prevent workers from having to sue their employers or their insurance companies when injured at work. Workers’ compensation provides a no-fault guaranteed insurance payment for all injuries plus income until the employee can return to work. In return, the employer is relieved of all liability for the worker’s injury or illness.
Sometimes, however, the injury was not caused by the employer but by a third party’s negligence. For instance, you might be injured when a delivery truck backs into the scaffolding you’re standing on, causing it to collapse. Or the jackhammer you’ve been using has a manufacturing defect, and the handle suddenly snaps in your hands, cutting you severely.
In these cases, you may have a claim against the delivery company or the jackhammer company for negligence or product defect. Filing a third-party claim is a separate type of legal action from filing a workers’ compensation claim and requires a different type of attorney. These claims are personal injury claims and will need a personal injury attorney.
What To Expect When You File for Workers’ Compensation
You can expect a few automatic benefits once your claim is approved. If you don’t receive these, you should contact an attorney immediately.
- Time-Loss Payments. Time-loss payments are paid when a worker is considered “temporarily and totally disabled” and unable to reasonably return to work. A time-loss payment is a wage replacement, usually between 60% and 75% of the pre-injury wage, plus all other benefits.
- Medical Benefits. Workers’ compensation pays 100% of all injury-related medical costs, including assistive devices, surgeries, medications and rehab. Experimental and off-label treatments are usually not covered.
- Temporary Partial/Total Disability. A “disability” in this context means “an impairment of the mind or body… [that] leaves [the worker] unable to perform or obtain a gainful occupation with a reasonable degree of success and continuity.” In other words, they cannot work at their usual job. A disability is “partial” if they can work with accommodations; it is “total” if the employer cannot or will not accommodate them.
- Permanent Partial Disability. If you are unable to work due to a “physical or mental impairment arising from an injury that is fixed, lasting and stable, and can’t be improved with further medical treatment,” then you have a permanent partial disability. In other words, you can still work but may not be able to work at your previous job. Some of the most common types of PPD injuries are spinal cord injuries, head trauma leading to sensory damage, and PTSD.
- Vocational Rehabilitation. If you are able to work despite a PPD, you may qualify for vocational rehabilitation and retraining for another job. There is a second option for an additional six months of time-loss payments for those who prefer limited retraining.
- Injury Pensions. If your injury is serious enough that you cannot return to work, an injury pension will pay the time-loss payment for the remainder of your life, even past retirement age. Unfortunately, injury pensions often require extensive litigation.
- Death Benefits. If the injury was so severe that the worker died or died later of injury-related complications, a lump sum and burial expenses are available. Survivor’s benefits may also be available under some circumstances.
Obtaining these awards can require extensive negotiation and even litigation. At Strong Law, we know that you and your family have other things on your mind than fighting legal battles with insurance agents and teams of attorneys. If you have been injured at work and want to ensure your rights are being protected, contact us at 206-741-1053 for a confidential consultation. We want you to get the compensation you need to keep your life on track.
Frequently Asked Questions About Workers’ Compensation and L&I
If you’ve been injured on the job and filed a workers’ compensation claim, you’ve probably heard some strange terms and puzzling acronyms tossed around by lawyers and doctors. These are some of the ones we get asked about at our offices.
What is an “attending physician”? Who has to pick them?
The claimant (you) has to designate an “attending physician” or “attending provider” on the claim form. The attending provider is the doctor who will manage your case for L&I. They must be on the L&I provider list, but your own doctor can be your attending provider if they are on the list. They must only be willing to manage your case and be willing to communicate with L&I.
What is an IME? Why do I need one?
An IME is an “independent medical exam” or “evaluation.” This happens near the end of your treatment when you approach “maximum medical improvement” or “MMI,” another acronym.
MMI means you have gotten as well as you’re going to get and can return to work. If everything is good and you’re back to normal, there’s no problem. If your MMI is less than ideal, if you’re going to be partially disabled or worse, then you or your employer may challenge the findings, which will require an IME.
The IME is carried out by an impartial third physician who has not been involved in your case. They will carry out a physical exam, evaluate your case file, and enter a report with L&I. Your physician needs to review the IME and comment on it regarding your evaluation.
You are required to go to the IME when it is ordered. Otherwise, your workers’ compensation can be at risk.
I decided I don’t like my doctor. Can I get a different one?
Yes. You can always change doctors, even during your workers’ compensation case. You can refuse to see a company doctor or other healthcare provider recommended by your employer. The only thing you are required to do is have an attending provider who is in the L&I network.
I disagree with how L&I is handling my case. What do I do now?
There are many reasons to disagree with how your case is being handled. These can include:
- Medical decisions, such as the cause or treatment of an injury
- Return to work dates
- Wage rates
- Temporary partial disability diagnoses or accommodations.
If you disagree with L&I, the first thing you must do is file a protest. You must file your protest right away. You have only 60 days from the date you receive the notice or decision you disagree with. If this happens, do not contact your employer or manager and “try to work it out.” You must start the protest and appeal process right away.
The procedure for filing a protest is very precise. Washington law specifies how and where your protest letter must be written, what supporting documents must be provided, and how many days are allowed for a response. If you are unsure of this process, you should contact a lawyer for on-the-job injury and appeal.
Most protests are not successful. In fact, many attorneys recommend beginning work on the appeal before the protest is rejected. Although you have another 60 days following the denial of the protest to file your appeal, your attorney will need every one of those days to draft and file a successful appeal. Don’t waste any of them!
“Excellent attorneys and staff!! My attorney, Peter, and his paralegal, Katrina, went ABOVE & BEYOND to get me a settlement that was even higher than my own personal bottom line. I highly recommend Strong Law for all your personal injury claims. I would not have been able to navigate this 3-year long journey without them! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!”