Service Spotlight: Legal Advice
Welcome to the Ask Approach Service Spotlight. Each month in 2020 we’ll take an in-depth look at a different service offered by Approach. For a quick look at all of the services available to Approach clients, download our Approach Services infographic.
Find all of our Service Spotlight posts at https://www.pitb.com/category/ask-approach/service-spotlight/
Legal review of workers’ comp claims
As an Approach client, you have access to our network of attorneys in Washington state, each of whom specializes in workers’ compensation and workplace safety. These attorneys can often review claims at little or even no cost. And, your Approach retro coordinator can help you assess the potential costs and benefits of hiring an attorney to represent your company with L&I, the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, or even at trial.
Here are some common legal situations in workers’ comp and a look at how an attorney can help:
My employee has hired a workers’ comp attorney
Employers usually can’t be sued for a workplace injury, except in cases of gross or willful neglect.
You may be thinking, “Well, if workers can’t sue for workplace injuries, why are there so many attorneys in workers’ comp?” It’s a good question and the answer is this – they’re not suing the employer, they’re either protesting or appealing L&I decisions in an attempt to get more money from the claim.
If successful, these protests and appeals can raise the total cost of the claim. That cost then comes back on your company in the form of higher L&I rates and lower retro refunds for 3 to 5 years in the future.
You may be thinking, “Well, if workers can’t sue for workplace injuries, why are there so many attorneys in workers’ comp?”
Therefore, if we learn that an employee has hired an attorney, we’ll analyze the claim to look at the potential costs. Next, we can ask an attorney to help us determine if it may be helpful or necessary for your company to hire its own attorney for the claim.
My company needs a workers’ comp attorney
There are times when you may want to hire legal representation for your company related to a claim. For example, you may believe that:
- The claim is fraudulent and should not have been allowed by L&I
- L&I has incorrectly denied your protest of a decision related to the claim
- Previous employers should share in all or part of an occupational disease claim filed by your employee
- The injury was caused by faulty equipment and therefore the manufacturer should be held responsible (known as a third-party claim)
In these cases, the first step is to use the L&I protest process to see if we can get relief without needing to involve attorneys. Your retro coordinator will help you through this process, backed by our team of in-house specialists. However, if the protest is not successful, we can often request a complimentary, flat or reduced rate analysis from an attorney in our network. Again, this analysis will help you determine if the use of legal services is warranted and whether it’s likely to be advantageous for your company.
My company was cited for a safety violation
Last week, we looked what happens during a workplace safety inspection and reminded you to always call the Approach Safety Team in the event of an inspection. This will allow us to assist you from the earliest possible time.
If you are cited for violations during the safety inspection, our safety team will assist you in remedying any areas of concern while protesting any unwarranted violations. As with claims, we are often successful at the staff level and don’t need to get attorneys involved.
However, our network does include attorneys who specialize in WISHA citations. Safety violations can easily come with penalties of $10,000 or more, so it may be worthwhile to hire an attorney if their initial review shows a good chance of prevailing.
Poorly managed claims or incorrect safety violations can cost your company thousands upon thousands of dollars over many years. Your Approach retro coordinator and the Approach Safety Team are here to keep your overall workers’ comp cost as low as possible, so we will only recommend legal review when we think it will have a direct benefit for your company.
We’ll then refer you to attorneys who specialize in the area or outcome that you need, from WISHA citations, to claims litigation, mediation, or occupational disease. The decision is always yours and Approach will continue managing the claim or assisting with the safety inspection follow-up at no additional charge. Download our Approach Attorney Review Flyer for a quick reference and to share with your co-workers.