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Washington Workers' Compensation Laws

The state of Washington is the nation's largest exporter, representing 5 percent of all U.S. exports, including timber and aerospace products. As various job sites grow, there is ample opportunity to get injured, which is why Washington requires its employers to carry workers' compensation insurance. If you were injured at work in Washington, read on to learn about the basics of Washington workers' compensation laws.

What Is Workers' Compensation?

Workers' compensation is a form of employer insurance that provides injured employees with compensation for work-related injuries. Workers' compensation insurance protects both employers and their employees from the financial impact of work-related injury or occupational disease. In Washington, employers have two options to obtain workers' compensation coverage. First, employers can purchase their insurance through Washington State Department of Labor and Industries ("Labor and Industries" or "L&I"). L&I manages claims and benefits out of an insurance pool called the Washington State Fund, which is financed by premiums paid by employers and employees.

Or second, some employers may qualify for self-insurance if they have sufficient financial stability (at least $25 million in assets), effective accident prevention program, and effective administrative organization for workers' compensation. If the employer is self-insured, injured employees' rights and benefit entitlement don't change, but who manages your claim is different. Under the self-insurance, your employer, instead of L&I, handles the paperwork and pays for your claim.

Workers' Compensation in Washington

The following table includes important parts of Washington workers' compensation laws, including important deadlines and types of benefits:

Important Deadlines

  • 1 year of your injury date to file claim application with L&I or your self-insured employer
  • 2 years from the date of your doctor's diagnosis for occupational disease claims


Medical Benefits: payments for expenses related to the injury or occupational disease

Wage Replacement: payments for loss of wage for missed work due to your injuries; this doesn't cover all of your lost wages, only a fraction

Prescription Medication: payments for prescription medications necessary for treatment of accepted conditions under open claims

Travel Reimbursement: partial payments for travel expenses (traveling more than 15 miles to see a health care provider)

Property Reimbursement: payments for personal property lost or damaged during a workplace accident (limited to prescription eye glasses or contacts, clothing, shoes or boots, and personal protective equipment)

Permanent Partial Disability: compensation for physical disability (you can still work, but your physical ability has been impaired)

Permanent Total Disability (Pensions): monthly pension if (1) the medical and vocational evidence finds that your injury prevents you from becoming gainfully employed or (2) you have lost, or lost the use of, both legs, both arms, an arm and a leg, or your vision

Employer Obligation

Employers must provide workers' compensation (also called industrial insurance) coverage for their employees and other eligible workers [Section 51.04.010]

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Washington Workers' Compensation Claim Process

If you are seeking compensation for your work-related injuries or occupational disease, these are the basic steps of the claim process in Washington:

  1. You should first immediately report your injury to your employer and seek medical treatment.
  2. File an accident report for your injury or exposure either: (a) at your doctor's office, (b) on L&I website, or (c) by calling L&I during business hours.
  3. If your doctor certifies that you were injured at a specific time and place at work, or have occupational disease, L&I or your self-insured employer will most likely approve your claim.
  4. If your doctor cannot certify that your medical condition is related to something happened at work, then claims can be rejected.

Claims are closed in the following situations: (1) your health-care provider or another physician certifies that further treatment won't improve your condition; (2) L&I has no information showing you need further treatment; or (3) your injury was minor and treatment was successful.

What Should I Do If My Claim Got Denied?

If your claim was denied, you can either: (1) protest your claim decision made by L&I or self-insured employer, or (2) directly appeal to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals. To protest your claim decision, you must send L&I (or your self-insured employer) your written protest within 60 calendar days of the date you received the decision. After this time, you lose your right to be heard.

If L&I agrees with your protest, or if you are directly appealing your claim, the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals will hold a hearing to determine the accuracy of your order. If you disagree with the Board's hearing decision, you may take your case to court. At this point, you should strongly consider hiring an experienced workers' compensation attorney for the appeal process.

Get Legal Help with Your Workers' Compensation Claim in Washington

While learning the basics of the Washington workers' compensation laws might be straightforward, interpreting them is a different story. Workers' compensation laws change frequently and handling a viable workers' comp case may be difficult for non-lawyers. If you have questions about workers' compensation, contact a local personal injury lawyer who can explain how Washington workers' compensation laws apply to your specific situation.

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