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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Out-of-State Work-Related Injuries: What You Need to Know

Today's post comes from guest author Brian M. Wright from Causey Law Firm of  the State of Washington

If you are a Washington resident working for an employer who operates in Washington and you are injured in another state, you probably have a Washington State workers’ compensation claim. Additionally, you might have a valid claim in the other state, as well. 

In all of the above scenarios, you may have the ability to file your claim in multiple states. Generally, you will have the option of filing in:

1)    the state in which you were injured;
2)    the state in which you primarily worked; and
3)    the state in which you entered into your employment contract.

If you are injured outside Washington, or whatever state in which you normally work, it is important to evaluate your options and file wherever you might have a legitimate claim. It is possible that you have remedies available to you in more than one state.

In Washington, we have agreements with other states that provide which state’s workers’ compensation laws apply when an employer takes its employees out of state. Those agreements apply to the workers of one state working temporarily in the other state. Washington currently has such agreements with Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. 

If you are a Washington worker sent temporarily by your employer to one of those states and you are injured there, Washington is likely the only state in which you can file a workers’ compensation claim. Conversely, if you are an employee based out of one of the states with which Washington has an agreement and you are injured while working temporarily in Washington, your home state is likely the only state in which you can file a claim.

But what happens if you are not simply temporarily working in one of the states with which Washington has an agreement? What if you spend a significant amount of time in both, or even other, states? What if your employer is based in one state and you are based in another? Or better yet, what if you are injured in a state with which Washington has no agreement? 

Yes, and.  The United States Supreme Court, in a case that settled the law once and for all back in 1980, decided that filing multiple workers’ compensation claims in multiple states does not violate the Constitution so long as each state’s system is credited for the benefits paid by the other states’ systems. In other words, you cannot be compensated twice for the same injury, but you can elect to file in multiple states in order to maximize the benefits that each state provides. Washington State, by law, explicitly allows you to file multiple claims in multiple states.
It is important to know your rights when you are injured on the job out of state, because the decision as to where to file your claim will have a direct impact on you and your family. Each state has a unique workers’ compensation system with a full spectrum of benefits, compensation rates, etc…  With an option of two or more states that might provide coverage, you may wish to select the state with the benefit program that better suits your financial situation and your needs. 

If you have been injured out-of-state, or while traveling in service of your employer, it is important to contact a workers’ compensation professional to assess your options.

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