What Are Challenges Faced by Undocumented Workers in Washington Workers’ Compensation Claims?

Employers have an obligation to keep their workplaces and their employees as safe as possible. Unfortunately, work-related accidents can happen at any time, upending someone’s livelihood and quality of life in an instant. Victims of workplace injuries often face considerable and complex challenges, ranging from costly medical treatments to lost wages—not to mention the stress of these unexpected medical bills and costly therapies. If you have suffered an injury while performing work-related tasks, you have the right to pursue a workers’ compensation claim that allows you to recover the money you need to cover these unexpected and devastating costs caused by the accident.

Essentially, Washington’s workers’ compensation laws are intended to protect vulnerable employees and to minimize the amount of litigation related to workplace injuries (thereby preserving the valuable resources and time investments of both employers and workers). Many people have questions about the workers’ compensation filing process, so it’s highly recommended to enlist the help of an experienced and knowledgeable Seattle workers’ compensation attorney who can advise you on how to address your situation as strategically and effectively as possible. If you are an undocumented worker, you may wonder whether you are eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim. These legal protections apply to workers in Washington, regardless of whether or not they have legal work documents or are undocumented laborers. This post will provide a brief overview of the workers’ compensation claim filing process, specifically in regard to undocumented workers in Washington State.

Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Washington State

Suffering an injury while on the job can be disorienting and overwhelming. While your health and safety should be your top priority, there are several steps you can take that will ease the workers’ compensation claims filing process once you’re ready to do so. Below are some actions you should take in the aftermath of sustaining a workplace-related injury.

Seek Medical Attention Right Away

Some injuries may require immediate medical care, necessitating a trip to the hospital. However, other injuries may not seem “serious” enough to warrant emergency medical care. Even if you think your injuries are somewhat minor, you should still make an appointment with a doctor or medical professional so they can evaluate the nature and extent of the injuries. Some injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) or internal bleeding, may not display obvious symptoms, so it’s best to have a doctor assess you and document your injuries. The medical records established by this visit will prove useful when you pursue your workers’ compensation claim, as they will provide detailed information about how the accident impacted you physically and financially.

Notify Your Employer of the Accident

You should report the accident to your employer in writing right away to make them aware of the incident. If your employer is self-insured, you may be required to complete and submit a “self-insured accident report.” You should also ask your employer to provide you with a copy of the Report of Accident (ROA) document for your records. Write down the names and contact information of any co-workers or witnesses at the scene, as they can help establish a clear timeline of how the accident happened. Union members should also notify the union of the accident and injuries. If you are unsure of your reporting obligations, reach out to a skilled and experienced Seattle workers’ compensation attorney to discuss the specific details of your situation.

File and Submit the Workers’ Compensation Claim

When you are ready to file your claim, you can locate the necessary forms at a nearby hospital, health clinic, or doctor’s office. You may also find the forms at your local Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) office. Next, complete the forms with all of the required information. Your doctor or physician’s assistant should complete the “Physician’s Initial Report” portion of the Report of Accident form. Once all of the forms have been completed, your employer will forward the claim to the L&I office. An L&I claims manager will be assigned to oversee your case and notify you of the benefits you may be eligible to receive.

Considerations for Undocumented Workers in King County

Undocumented workers often feel unsure of their legal rights, and they may worry that speaking up can put them at risk of termination or deportation. Unfortunately, this fear can dissuade an undocumented injured worker from filing a workers’ compensation claim and recovering the benefits they need to support their recovery. Injured workers in Washington enjoy several legal protections under the state’s workers’ compensation laws, including the right to secure medical care at no cost, the right to choose or change doctors, and the right to be free from retaliation for asserting your workers’ compensation rights. According to Washington State’s Employment Security Department, “the laws surrounding the [worker’s compensation] program make no distinctions regarding a workers’ immigration status, so the program is available to undocumented workers.” In other words, no laws expressly prohibit undocumented workers from receiving workers’ compensation, meaning they may file a claim to recover the benefits they need to assist with their recovery.

Defending Your Legal Rights at Every Turn

Regardless of your immigration or documentation status, you should enlist the guidance of a trusted and knowledgeable Seattle personal injury attorney to help you pursue a workers’ compensation claim. At Scott & Scott, PLLC, we believe in informing our clients of their legal rights and empowering them to pursue the most strategic path forward to recover the compensation they’re owed. If you fear retaliation from your employer, we are here to defend your legal rights and advocate for your best interests at every turn. 

If you have suffered a work-related injury in Washington State, you may be able to obtain workers’ compensation benefits to help cover the medical expenses and other costs associated with the accident. Reach out to the dedicated and experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Scott & Scott, PLLC, by calling our Seattle office today at (206) 622-2200.

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