Federal law requires all states to have some worker’s compensation insurance program that applies specifically when individuals are injured while on the job. Washington is one of the few states that has chosen to keep the state program within the control of the government instead of totally privatizing protection for employees working within the state borders. However, the rules that require employers to participate in the program differ from many other states as well, with certain employers being allowed an exemption if they can prove independent coverage is in place or choose to self-insure their workers.
Most of the companies that do not participate in the state program are the major employers of the state, and as many as one-third of the individuals working in the state work for one of these major corporations. Also, there are also exemptions for certain types of employers based on the makeup of their workforce and the nature of the operation. Self-employed individuals are not required to participate in the program, and individual management personnel is exempt as well in certain situations. Private contractor relationships are also technically self-employment situations for the most part.
Filing a Claim
Depending on the insurance status of an employer, employees will either file a claim with the state compensation board through their employer or submit the injury claim directly to those employers that are self-insured. Some claims can be simple procedures when the injury occurs due to a specific work incident and is not contested by the employer. This may not be so simple when employers are self-insured, or their insurance provider acts in bad faith. Injuries that manifest over a long period and are contested by the employer can also be frustrating experiences when attempting to recover damages.
Injured workers who accept the state workers compensation benefits are normally disqualified from suing an employer for non-economic pain-and-suffering. However, this is not an absolute restriction, as the injured employee can sue for full damages when the injury is the result of an intentional, reckless, or illegal action on the part of the employer or another employee. These cases are often complicated and strongly defended, and will always require the expertise of a personal injury attorney in Tacoma WA who understands what to expect regarding defensive claims and knows how to craft a case for maximum benefits to the injured worker client.