If you were injured at work in Washington, you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Depending on the type and severity of your injury, you may be eligible for wage replacement benefits, medical treatment, and other compensation. Below, we explain how workers’ compensation benefits are calculated in Washington and how much you might receive. (To get these benefits, you will need to file a workers’ compensation claim in Washington.)
In Washington, the following types of benefits are available through workers’ comp:
However, state law limits your benefits and not all losses are covered. For example, an injured worker cannot receive compensation for pain and suffering through workers’ comp.
Unlike most states, Washington has a state-managed workers’ compensation system. The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) insures most employers and pays benefits to workers with accepted claims.
You may receive wage replacement (or “time lost”) benefits if your doctor’s restrictions prevent you from working or earning your regular wages. Wage replacement benefits are paid once you are unable to work for three days. If your disability lasts for at least 14 days, L&I will retroactively pay you for your first days off work. These benefits will continue until you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). You are at MMI once your doctor determines that your conditions are unlikely to improve with additional medical treatment.
If you’re completely unable to work, wage replacement benefits are between 60 and 75 percent of your monthly gross income, depending on your marital status and number of dependents. Your gross income includes your wages, health benefits, bonuses, and any tips you received within the past 12 months. (You should receive a Wage Order from L&I explaining how your benefits were calculated.)
If you can return to work, but you are earning less due to your injuries, Washington workers’ comp pays a partial benefit. This benefit is 80 percent of the difference between your pre-injury and post-injury wages. For example, if you used to earn $500 in weekly wages, but you now can only earn $300, you would get $160 in differential wage loss benefits ($500 - $300 = $200; 80% x $200 = $160.)
Washington also sets minimum and maximum time lost benefits, which change annually. As of July 2016, the maximum monthly benefit was $5,627.30.
In Washington, your eligibility for permanent disability benefits is determined after you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may be eligible for a permanent partial disability award or a permanent total disability pension.
You are eligible for a permanent partial disability (PPD) award if you are able to return to work but have permanent limitations. The amount of your award will vary depending on the type of injury and when it occurred. L&I publishes an annual schedule that sets the value of injuries to certain body parts, organs, and bodily systems, depending on the level of impairment. PPD benefits are typically paid in a lump sum, although high-value benefits may be spread out over time.
You are eligible for a permanent and total disability pension for the following injuries, even if you’re able to return to work:
Other severe impairments may also qualify as a permanent and total disability, but only if they prevent you from performing any type of work.
Your monthly pension benefit will vary, depending on your date of injury, pre-injury wages, and the pension option you choose. You also may be eligible for cost of living increases. In Washington, you may opt to receive either your full monthly rate or a reduced rate along with the payment of lifetime benefits to a designated beneficiary after you die.
If a workplace injury or illness results in death, the worker’s spouse and dependents may receive workers’ comp benefits, including a survivor’s pension and payment of burial expenses. Survivor’s pension amounts vary, depending on the worker’s date of death, marital status, and number of dependents. Surviving spouses receive a lifetime pension (unless they remarry). Children’s pensions are paid until they are 18 years old (or 23 years old if full-time students). Survivors may also be eligible for annual costs of living increases. L&I also pays a portion of the worker’s reasonable funeral and burial expenses (as of July 2016, up to $9,378.82).
Contact a Washington workers’ comp lawyer immediately if L&I disputes your claim or reduces your benefits. A lawyer can help you evaluate your claim, calculate your benefit rates, and ensure that you receive the proper compensation.