I got hurt on the job and my employer told me not to file a workers’ compensation claim with L&I. Should I file anyway?

We recently got a phone call from “Bob” (not his real name). While working construction, Bob fell and broke his wrist. His employer told him not to file a claim with L&I, gave him a light duty job, and kept paying him his regular wages. But the employer did not pay his medical bills and was not going to pay a permanent partial disability award for lasting impairment from the injury. Bob called to ask whether he should go ahead and file a workers’ compensation claim.

Our answer? YES!

An employer has a strong financial interest in an injured worker not filing a claim – it keeps the employer’s workers’ comp insurance costs lower, the employer doesn’t have to help cover the injured worker’s medical bills (through L&I), and doesn’t have to help cover the payment by L&I of any permanent partial disability if the worker is left with a permanent impairment.

Fortunately, Bob still has time to file a claim with L&I as he was injured just a few months ago. A workers’ compensation claim must be filed within one year of the date of injury.

Why is it in Bob’s best interest to file a claim?

  • L&I might pay time loss longer than the employer is willing to keep him on salary for light duty work.
  • While his claim is open, if Bob goes back to work and earns more than 5% less than his wages at the time of injury, he can get payments for loss of earning power.
  • L&I will cover medical bills for authorized treatment related to the injury. Such treatment can include surgery, chiropractic, physical therapy, massage, prescription medications, imaging studies, and psychological/psychiatric care. Bob won’t need to put such expenses on his own insurance and pay deductibles and other out-of-pocket charges.
  • Bob’s wrist is likely to get worse over time, for example, as arthritis sets in. If Bob’s claim is closed, he can have it reopened if his wrist gets objectively worse within seven years of the first claim closure. L&I could pay him time loss again and/or cover medical costs if more treatment becomes necessary due to the worsening.
  • If Bob is left with a permanent impairment (loss of function), L&I will pay him a permanent partial disability award. The amount of such awards varies and depends on the type and level of impairment.
  • If Bob is not able to go back to any reasonably continuous, gainful employment due to his injury, he might be put on a pension.
  • If Bob cannot go back to his job of injury and does not have transferable skills, L&I may provide vocational services so he can be trained for a different job.

If your employer offers to "take care of you" as long as you do not file a worker's compensation claim -- BEWARE. The employer's motive is to save money. If you do not file a claim, you are at risk of losing important protections and benefits. You need to protect yourself, not worry about your employer saving money on insurance.