How does the workers' comp system work in Washington State?

The Washington Workers’ Comp insurance system was established in 1911 and was set up as an “exclusive remedy” insurance system, which protects employers from being sued by employees who are injured on the job. Now in place for over 100 years, the Washington Workers’ Comp system includes coverage for industrial injury claims and occupational disease claims. Employees who are injured on the job and are found to have a valid claim are eligible for payment of medical benefits and, if appropriate, wage replacement benefits for time missed from work.

How is workers' comp different in Washington?

Washington is referred to as a “no-fault state”, meaning that a worker will have coverage despite the actions that led to the injury. The worker simply needs to be in the course of employment to have an accepted injury claim. Occupational disease claims, typically for conditions that develop over the course of time, are allowed simply if the condition arises “naturally and proximately out of employment.”

Washington workers’ comp law allows employees one year to file an injury claim, and occupational disease claims must be filed within two years of the date a worker received written notice from a provider that the condition exists.

Which insurance options are available?

In Washington, there is currently no option for private workers’ comp insurance. Employers in the state can choose to self-insure if they meet strict criteria, or they will pay for insurance through Labor & Industries state fund.

What is the Retrospective Rating Program?

Washington Labor and Industries offers a financial incentive program for employers called the Retrospective Rating Program (or “Retro Program”). Established in 1984, the retro program allows employers in similar industries, such as manufacturing, to pool their workers’ compensation premiums. If group losses are less than premium at the end of the adjustment period, employers can earn a refund on the premium paid to L&I.

If you do business in Washington, consider joining a retro program where you can get help lowering your L&I premiums and benefit by earning refunds on the annual premiums you pay to L&I. Learn more about Vigilant’s Retro program.