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How to Reopen Your Washington Workers’ Comp Case

Reopening Your Washington Workers' Compensation Case
Home Blog Auto Accident How to Reopen Your Washington Workers’ Comp Case

Key Takeaways:

  • Closed workers’ comp cases can be reopened.
  • Injured workers who are reinjured have legal recourse.
  • New injuries may warrant a new workers’ compensation claim.
  • Reopening denials can be appealed.
  • A Washington workers’ compensation lawyer can help reopen your case properly.

Getting injured on the job can be a costly experience, and the challenges to pursuing a workers’ compensation case in the state of Washington are substantial. Washington’s labor and industries system is not easy to navigate without experience, and it can easily be overwhelming to someone already coping with the physical and financial pressures of the injury recovery process.

Reopening your workers’ comp case can seem daunting, but the attorneys at McPartland Law Office are happy to offer our expertise to people who need help. Our law firm has a comprehensive understanding of Washington’s workers’ compensation laws and is equipped to navigate the legal complexities of these cases. You can benefit from legal representation, and our legal team can guide you through the entire process, from reopening a claim to advocating your rights to resolving.

Can I Reopen My Washington Workers’ Comp Claim?

personal injury victim reviewing claim details with his lawyer

Yes, you can reopen your workers’ comp claim in Washington and continue receiving workers’ compensation benefits.

The crux of your case will depend on the medical evidence you can provide that demonstrates you still need compensation for your injury. Since most cases close due to your treating doctor determining that further treatment will no longer improve your condition, you may have to find a different doctor, though that will not be necessary in cases in which they agree that your personal injury has worsened.

How to Reopen a Workers’ Comp Claim

To reopen a workers’ comp claim, you will need to have a doctor who can attest on your behalf that your condition has worsened and also provide a treatment plan for your condition. New conditions may be applied in these cases, and an attorney can help you determine what exactly those are in your unique circumstance. Many doctors know that a claim can be reopened, but are unfamiliar with the need to compare the claimant’s condition at the time of claim closure (T1) with their condition at the time of reopening (T2). Many do not know that failed efforts at reopening will shift the T1 date from the date of first final claim closure to the date of the failed reopening. Not taking these elements into account can make reopening claims for people challenging.

How to Reopen Your Workers’ Comp Claim, Step by Step

If your injury or illness has worsened or if new issues have arisen, you may need to reopen your Washington workers’ compensation claim. Follow these steps to reopen your claim:

  1. Seek Legal Counsel: It’s highly advisable to seek legal advice from an attorney experienced in workers’ compensation law. A lawyer can provide crucial guidance on the intricacies of the process, help gather and present compelling evidence, and represent your interests, especially in cases of disputes or denials.
  2. Gather Medical Evidence: Collect updated medical records and reports that clearly document the changes in your condition. This evidence should establish a direct link between your worsened condition and the original workplace injury or illness.
  3. Consult with Your Doctor: Have a detailed discussion with your healthcare provider. They need to certify that your condition has changed significantly since the claim was closed. Your healthcare provider can assist you in drafting a treatment plan to support your application for reopening your workers’ compensation claim.
  4. Complete and Submit an Application for Reopening Your Claim: Obtain and fill out the Application to Reopen Claim Due to Worsening Condition form. To avoid delays, fill in all sections accurately and completely, including all supporting medical evidence. Submit this form to the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) or your self-insured employer.

Understanding Your Rights After a Workers’ Comp Case Closure

It can be incredibly frustrating when your workers’ comp case is closed, and you do not get the outcome you were looking for or have stopped receiving benefits. Fortunately, you can still take action to pursue medical benefits and lost wages. Just make sure you have effective legal counsel by your side to guide you through the process.

Additionally, you will need to seek help from a doctor who can demonstrate the medical necessity of your treatments for your work-related injury.

Laws Regarding Reopening an L&I Claim

Reopening your labor and industries claim is governed primarily by Washington state law RCW 51.32.160(1)(d). This law allows you to reopen a claim if your injury or occupational disease aggravates or worsens after closing your initial claim. To do so, however, you will need to file a petition, and there are different routes for pursuing solely medical benefits or medical benefits alongside lost wages.

Reopening a Workers’ Comp Claim Based on Condition Circumstance

New Condition

A new condition that you suffer from can be enough to justify reopening your workers’ comp claim, provided that the original injury from your initial claim, including the onset of a permanent disability, caused the new condition.

For example, imagine you suffer a back injury at work and suffer a pinched nerve in your lower spine. This pinched nerve causes pain and discomfort to radiate down into your leg and limits your movement. That is the crux of your initial claim. During the recovery process, you regained some mobility but had to heavily favor your other strong leg. In doing so, you wore out your hip in a way that would not have happened were it not for the initial back injury. In that case, you could reopen your workers’ comp case for your new hip condition.

Aggravation of Injury

Aggravating a work injury in such a way that causes it to resurface after your case has concluded can warrant reopening it. You just have to make sure that you are acting in a way that is reasonable with your injury in mind.

For example, you can probably reopen your case if you aggravated an old back injury that you previously got workers’ comp for by lifting a bag of flour to buy at the grocery store. If you aggravated a back injury during a weightlifting competition, you probably will not have much of a case.

Worsening of Injury

Worsening workplace injuries typically occur while on the job, and it comes in the form of doing activities on the job that make your injury flare up or increase in its severity.

If your employer asks you to do something within reason that worsens your medical condition or you suffer a workplace accident, you may be able to reopen your case. If you exacerbate your injury by doing something for your employer that was unreasonably requested, such as a person with a back injury doing heavy lifting, that will likely warrant a new workers’ comp case altogether.

Statute of Limitations for Reopening a Workers’ Compensation Claim

In most cases, after your claim is closed, you have seven years from the ‘first, final claim closure’ to reopen the claim. Whether closing of a claim is ‘final’ is a legal concept and the Department’s initial position can be modified. For example, McPartland Law Offices has resurrected claims believed even by the claimant to be closed for years because of information contained in the Department file.

Additionally, an application must be granted if the Department of Labor & Industries does not deny your application within 90 days of receiving it.

The only exception is the “good cause” rule, which allows the department to extend its allotted time for deciding a maximum of 60 extra days. Good causes can include the department’s inability to get the results of an independent medical examination. Your doctor has failed to respond to their requests, or another barrier to their investigation has come up.

What Happens If the L&I Claim I Try to Reopen is Denied?

If the Department of Labor & Industries denies your claim, you have a limited amount of time to file an appeal, and you will want to have a workers’ comp attorney help develop your claim and make your case. Specifically, you have just 60 days to file an appeal after receiving the denial order from the Department of L&I.

Filing a New Claim for Reaggravated Job-Related Injuries

If you reaggravated a job injury at work, even if you did not receive any workers’ comp benefits prior, you may still be able to receive worker’s compensation and additional benefits. This will be treated as a brand new claim with an insurance company rather than reopening an old claim.

If you did receive workers’ comp before, you may have the option to reopen your old claim. A Washington workers’ compensation lawyer can help you determine the best route for your needs.

What Challenges Occur When Trying to Reopen an L&I Case?

Warehouse working on the floor after injuring his leg

The typical challenges to workers’ compensation cases resurface whenever you reopen a claim, so expect to see those again. Filing the claim can be complicated, and the appeals process is additionally complex, especially with the added time limit.

It is important to realize that you must acquire evidence of your worsened condition before reopening your old claim. That is why it may be beneficial to speak with a workers’ comp attorney before you visit the doctor for further medical treatment. If you do not, the Department may utilize an independent medical examination to effectively sabotage your efforts in reopening the case.

Frequently Asked Questions For Reopening Your Closed L&I Case

Here are some of the most common questions regarding reopening closed workers’ comp cases asked by injured employees.

What if My Doctor is Not Part of the L&I Network?

Your medical care doctor must be part of the network to submit medical records for your claim. This means having your doctor apply to become part of the network or finding a registered doctor on the network to work for your case instead.

What if It Has Been Over Seven Years Since My Initial L&I Claim Closed?

If your claim is related to an eye injury, you have a ten-year limit and three extra years to file. Otherwise, your case can still be reopened if the appropriate eligibility for reopening is met. The difference is the amount of benefits you can receive. Medical expenses have no time limit, but most financial benefits abide by the seven-year limitation. This is not an absolute rule and a free consultation is rarely wasted.

What Benefits Can I Receive After Reopening My Case?

Reopening your case entitles you to the same benefits you enjoyed the first time, including compensation for future medical care, lost wages and potential disability awards, pension and/or structured settlements. The exact details will vary depending on the nature of your case.

What Happens if the Department of Labor & Industries Does Not Respond After 60 Days?

If the Department does not respond to your claim or appeal within the allotted time limit, the reopening is deemed granted.

Searching For a Washington L&I Attorney? See What Our Clients Say

At the McPartland Law Offices, we have spent years recovering millions of dollars for our Washington State clients with a communicative and dedicated attorney-client relationship. Here is what some of our previous clients say about our workers’ compensation attorneys.

Client Testimonials

“My family and I had the opportunity to work with Bryce and his team during a very difficult time in our lives. The service and representation that McPartland Law Offices provided was absolutely exceptional. I was thoroughly impressed by their professionalism, knowledge, and ability to help us understand everything throughout the entire process. To say they left no stone unturned would be an understatement. I will be forever grateful for the compassion and dedication consistently demonstrated by Bryce and his team. I highly recommend McPartland Law Offices.” — Claudia V

“I had the best experience back in 2019. I really recommend McPartland Law Office and their staff. They were all very professional & polite. Huge thanks to Ruben Vela who did great with my case. Once again THANK YOU for taking the stress off my shoulders. Highly recommend this law office.” — Jose B

“McPartland Law will take care of business! They listen, care and will keep you updated [throughout] the process. Bryce has been great and away from work he is a big part of the Grant County community. Big supporter of all sports programs for local schools.” — Greg

Seek Legal Support When You Have Pain After Your L&I Case Closes

If you need to reopen your L&I injury claim, the Washington workers’ compensation lawyers at McPartland Law Offices have the experience to help. Get started by filling out our online contact form or calling 509-495-1247 for a free consultation.