Whether you work part- or full-time, your workplace becomes a second home. You’ve got that favorite stash of pens, special coffee mug, and vibrant—if slightly goofy—office family. But if you’re injured on the job, don’t try to handle your Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) claim alone. Seek help from a skilled attorney, like those at Olympia’s Putnam Lieb Potvin Dailey. They will guide you through the process and always represent your best interests.
State statistics show nearly 30,000 people experienced “occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work” in one year alone. Washington’s L&I claims department urges employees to remember that “If you are injured at work, there are two very important things to do immediately: get medical help, and tell your employer.” But after that, says Putnam Lieb Potvin Dailey attorney Laura Fedorko, there are three steps along the way where successful claims are prone to falter.
When you file an injury claim, says Fedorko, one place things can go wrong is the independent medical exam. “If you get notice that an exam is being scheduled or if your Claim Manger tells you that one will soon be scheduled, reach out to us,” she encourages. “Independent Medical Exams are performed by doctors who are contracted with L&I or the self-insured employer to answer medical questions. They do not provide treatment to claimants as other providers do under the claim, , and in most circumstances IME doctors only evaluate the injured worker on one occasion.”
Without follow-up or speaking to your primary care physician, their information can be incomplete. “Unfortunately, we see many IMEs come back with results that are not favorable to injured workers, and if L&I relies on the IME provider’s opinions, that could mean the end of time loss, denial of conditions, or even closures of the claim,” says Fedorko. “There are steps we can take to try to get an IME canceled, to limit any negative impact it may have, and even to prevent it from being scheduled in the first place.”
Another crucial area is one of timing. “A second potential pitfall arises when L&I or the self-insured employer issues a written decision or Order that negatively impacts the injured worker,” explains Fedorko. “There are strict timelines imposed that govern how many days the injured worker has to protest these orders if they disagree. If the injured worker misses those deadlines, they are out of luck—the decision or Order becomes final and no further disputes on that issue are possible.”
Finally, problems can arise if your employer makes frequent, excessive requests of the claim manager assigned to your case. Claim managers authorize or deny services and referrals and track the overall benefits timeline. “An employer’s best interests and the worker’s best interests do not always align, especially if an employer’s primary goal is to minimize claim costs,” acknowledges Fedorko. If an employer is actively participating in a claim, it’s best to consult with an attorney of your own sooner rather than later. “Fortunately, it’s not hard to determine if an employer is active on your claim. If you have a self-insured claim, the employer is involved from the get-go because they administer the claim themselves. Alternatively, If your claim is administered by L&I directly, you can access your entire claim file online, including any correspondence that the employer has had with L&I.
If you’ve been injured on the job, or know someone who has, it may all seem very daunting. This is where the Putnam Lieb Potvin Dailey team is an invaluable resource. They provide free case assessments and are happy to answer questions about all manner of workers’ compensation claims. “If you’re not sure whether one of the above red-flag issues applies, or you have another concern on your case, we’d be happy to take a look at it for you,” says Fedorko. “There are two steps involved in our free consults: learning about the claim from the worker and conducting a thorough review of the claim file. Once we’ve completed those steps, we’ll discuss with the worker whether we can step in to represent him or her, and the worker will decide whether they’d like to go forward with that representation.”
But, she stresses, “We’d much prefer that injured workers come early rather than later—there are some problems that can’t be fixed. At minimum, we can point injured workers in the right direction, regardless of whether we ultimately step in as legal representative.”
Contact Putnam Lieb Potvin Dailey online or call 360-596-9539 or 877-551-2871 to schedule your initial consultation. The firm practices in the areas of workers’ compensation and personal injury.
Then rest easy and heal knowing you’ll soon be back to work before someone sneaks away with your favorite pen. You know the one I’m talking about.