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Putnam Lieb Potvin Dailey

A look at the workers' compensation appellate process

Far too many individuals in Washington are injured on the job. These injuries can span the severity spectrum, from repetitive motion injuries caused from excessive typing to scaffolding falls at construction sites. Regardless of an injury's severity, if it was suffered on the job then it may qualify an individual for workers' compensation benefits. Although securing workers' compensation benefits may sound easy enough, it can actually be a quite complicated process. For example, an employer or its workers' compensation insurer may challenge that the injury was suffered or exacerbated while performing work duties. This means that many workers' compensation claims are initially denied.

A denial shouldn't paralyze an injured worker into inaction, though. Instead, these individuals need to pursue the appellate process as competently as possible so as to increase the likelihood that they will be awarded the benefits they need and deserve. This process starts with filing a letter of protest with the Department of Labor and Industries. Here, an injured worker can lay out the reasons why he or she disagrees with the denial, which will be considered by another person than that who adjudicated the initial claim.

If an injured worker is still denied benefits, then he or she can file a notice of appeal with the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeal, which may send the case to mediation. If the matter doesn't resolve and the denial is subsequently upheld, then an injured worker can file a petition to have the matter reviewed by a three-person panel at the Board. At that point, only the state courts can review a denied claim. Since the rulings made by the Board are presumed to be accurate, many find it difficult to succeed at the state court level.

As one can see, though, there are multiple opportunities to appeal a denied workers' compensation claim. However, merely going up the ladder isn't enough to secure benefits. Instead, injured workers need to be prepared to make strong legal arguments supported by convincing evidence if they hope to succeed. Fortunately, legal professionals who are skilled in this area of the law stand ready to assist in with this process.

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