WSIA's Legislative Agenda
WSIA's legislative agenda is to advocate for improvements to the state workers' compensation system and other programs that seek to protect the health and safety of Washington employees. WSIA's yearly agenda is developed in consultation with our Legislative Committee members, and approved by our Board of Directors.
In 2017, we advocated for:
Benefit Accuracy, Consistency, and Fairness
According to one L&I audit executive, calculating disability benefits under Washington's current statute is "like trying to split the atom." Wage rates and benefits are calculated based on archaic formulas that are difficult to follow and are inconsistently and inaccurately applied. Benefits are provided differently to different injured workers based upon non-occupational factors. WSIA believes this complicated system should be simplified, with benefits provided at a flat rate and gross wages determined with respect to average earnings.
Clarifying Occupational Disease Coverage
Occupational diseases are a rapidly growing and increasingly expensive aspect of Washington's system. Our courts have construed the law over the years to allow non-occupational factors to result in coverage, shifting costs into workers' compensation. Our law should be clarified to require that covered occupational diseases be proximately caused by actual occupational exposures.
Resolving Claims by Settlement
Some workers' comp claims are hard to resolve. The entitlement to benefits isn't clear, or the injured worker believes the system is unresponsive and wants out. Currently, only workers age 53 and over may settle aspects of a workers' comp claim. This age limit should be removed, and any adult worker should be able to settle a workers' comp claim, with existing legal protections.
Fixing the "Tobin Decision" of our State Supreme Court
If a worker is injured by a third party (not the employer or a co-worker), he or she can sue for damages, a portion of which is reimbursed to the State Fund or self-insured employer. In a 2010 case called Tobin, our State Supreme Court changed the law, allowing workers to shield substantial portions of damages from reimbursement, contrary to the purpose of allowing third party lawsuits. This should be fixed to clarify the Legislature's original intent.