Unfortunately, many people are injured at work, especially in labor intensive employments. In fact, in 2020, the US had roughly 4 million work-related injuries that required medical treatment. In Washington State 3.5 per 100 full-time workers are injured. Once a worker is injured, they should file a claim with the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). Unfortunately, L&I has a negative reputation as not willing or wanting to help injured workers because they are an insurance agency.
Have you ever wondered just how many claims L&I deal with?? Well, in the fiscal year of 2021, L&I allowed 109,314 claims with the average cost per injured worker being $11,476. L&I rejected 18,345 claims last fiscal year. And finally, the number of claims that were closed with the injured worker being totally and permanently disabled, meaning they received a pension, was a total of 3 for the fiscal year of 2021 (WA Dept Statistics).
It is not easy to obtain a pension as an injured worker because even if the medical is saying that you cannot work anymore, L&I does not like the idea of having to pay you for the rest of your life. That being said, here at Williams, Wyckoff, and Ostrander (WWO), we fight to make sure that every one of our clients receives the benefits they deserve and if that means they need a pension due to being unable to work anymore, then that is what we fight to get – no matter how hard it may be to obtain. Here is the story about how WWO helped Mrs. Thompson receive a pension in 2022 after 30 years of dealing with L&I.
Mrs. Thompson was a 30-year-old who worked at Michaels craft store as a department head. Mrs. Thompson loved working and enjoyed socializing with customers and employees. On June 1, 1992, she fell four to five feet off a loading dock, landing with her weight on her right heel and foot. She experienced extreme pain on her right foot and was unable to put any weight on it. She was then transported to the emergency room where she was diagnosed with a fracture of her heel bone.
Mrs. Thompson continued to have significant symptoms and underwent surgery to remove a portion of the heel bone and then reattached a ligament with a staple in her foot. This surgery relieved her heel pain slightly but not completely.
Mrs. Thompson eventually returned to work at Michaels in a modified cashiering position from September to October of 1993. Due to worsening of Mrs. Thompson’s condition, however, an additional surgery to fuse the joints in the back of her foot, and a bone graft of her heel bone by taking bone from her pelvis and attaching it to her heel was done. Mrs. Thompson continued to have increased pain in her leg while trying conservative treatment including a boot, aggressive physical therapy, and anti-inflammatories. On December 12, 1996, Mrs. Thompson underwent another fusion but this time to her ankle. For the next few years, Mrs. Thompson continued to experience considerable amount of pain in her lower leg. She underwent more surgeries including removal of a portion of her shin bone.
Finally on September 20, 2010, her doctor recommended removal of her lower leg, below the knee. She could not stand the pain any longer and had already been dealing with it for 18 years with one surgery after another that was not helping. Embarrassingly, L&I required that Mrs. Thompson prove that she was in pain. L&I required her to participate in a program where she would either receive anesthesia blocks or placebo blocks to tell whether she was lying about her being in an extreme amount of pain. Mrs. Thompson proved to them that she was in the extreme amount of pain that she had been telling all her doctors the entire time. L&I finally allowed for the amputation. After amputation, she underwent additional surgeries to deaden the nerves at the leg stump.
Mrs. Thompson then began using a prosthetic when she could, but this would hurt the skin of her leg. She used a scooter to also get around from place to place but all these years of pain caused Mrs. Thompson to suffer from severe, debilitating depression. From one accident, it changed the entire life of Mrs. Thompson which is hard for anyone to come to terms with.
The Department of Labor and Industries gave Mrs. Thompson a lot of grief throughout her claim even though she was compliant with everything she was supposed to do. All she wanted was to feel better so she could work again. At one point, L&I refused to compensate Mrs. Thompson with time loss even though she was unable to work. She hired Williams, Wyckoff, and Ostrander (WWO) to help with her claim and we did just that. Eventually, it was determined that she could no longer work at the job of injury and therefore she may be able to be retrained. We were able to obtain Mrs. Thompson her all her benefits and continued to help her manager her claim.
L&I attempted to retrain Mrs. Thompson more than 4 times. Mrs. Thompson was unable to be retrained due to her severe depression, inability to get to school, and inability to perform any type of reasonably continuous, gainful employment. Her doctors even told L&I that Mrs. Thompson could not be a student due to her injury and everything that came with it – yet L&I persisted.
Finally, after some aggressive advocating by WWO, L&I agreed that Mrs. Thompson had shown that she could not be retrained and permanently could not work. WWO was able to complete her claim in 2022 with Mrs. Thompson receiving a pension from the Department. The amount of stress and struggle the Department put Mrs. Thompson through for 30 years was unfair to Mrs. Thompson and caused added stress to an already stressful situation.
Now, with the help of WWO, Mrs. Thompson does not have to worry about having an income due to her pension from L&I and she can finally relax knowing that she is done dealing with L&I. Her and her husband appreciated WWOs work and advocacy. If this story resonates with you, please reach out to WWO to have your claim reviewed. We are here to help you with your claim and obtain the benefits you are entitled to.