When consulting with injured workers, it is not uncommon for me to suggest that the individual give me permission to investigate their claim. This is a service I offer as part of my free consultation process. While I do not represent the injured worker during the investigation process, it does give me a great opportunity to understand what is going on with the claim and to make a better informed recommendation regarding the need for legal representation.
For me, the process of investigating a claim is relatively simple. I have the injured worker fill out a form giving me permission to inspect their file and requesting that the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) provide my office with a complete copy of the claim file. L&I provides a form for this purpose called a Request for Claim Information. However, I typically use my own form because I like to include language protesting any adverse decisions issued in the past 60 days as a protective measure. Sometimes injured workers are not aware of whether adverse decisions have been issued and I’d prefer to file a protective protest rather than find out later that an adverse decision has become final unbeknownst to the injured worker or me.
In the case of State Funded claims, within a week I am usually provided with a complete copy of the claim file on CD ROM. If I determine representation is appropriate, the fact that I investigated often allows me to hit the ground running because I have already formulated an informed strategic plan for any action I may need to take. For self-insured claims RCW 51.14.120 provides a basis for requesting a complete copy of the claim file for inspection as well. Often it takes longer to receive a self-insured file, it usually come sin a hard copy and depending on the length and complexity of the claim, the amount of paper received can be quite voluminous. Because State Funded claims come in an organized electronic format, I can usually investigate these files quickly. Self-insured claims may take quite a bit longer to sort and review during the investigation process.
In summary, investigating claims is a simple and free service I offer that enables me to have more productive conversations with injured workers regarding potential representation, and it is a good way for me to get a jump start on formulating a plan and strategic approach for possible representation.