The Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals
is a State agency, separate and apart from the Department of Labor
and Industries, that acts as an Administrative Law Court for the purpose
of resolving conflicts and disputes arising from the application of
Washington State law concerning primarily workers' compensation claims
and industrial health and safety statutes, including asbestos certification.
The Board also hears cases involving crime victims' compensation,
the Worker and Community Right to Know Act, the Charter Boat Safety
Act, and the Washington State Explosives Act.
How can an attorney help me with my Board of Industrial Insurance
The earlier our office can be involved in a claim, the easier it is
for us to obtain the documentation to support our contentions prior
to litigation. In most cases, we are able to avoid litigation altogether
by working in the mediation process to resolve any issues administratively
with the Department of Labor and Industries and/or the self-insured
employer's representative. This often results in a speedy resolution
of the issues. The cost of litigation can be significant. Charges
are incurred with the presentation of expert testimony. The length
of time before a resolution of the issues is obtained is much greater
if the case has to be tried before an Industrial Appeals Judge. We
have found that, in many cases, the extra time and cost of litigation
outweighs the potential benefit to be derived from filing an appeal.
It is in everyone's best interest to resolve issues at the claims
management level whenever possible, or in mediation before the Board
when not possible.
What does a hearing involve?
Once an appeal has been filed, either by you/your attorney or your
employer, to a written decision of the Department of Labor and Industries
or a self-insured employer's representative, the claim is reviewed
by the Board to determine the appropriateness of the Board reviewing
the issues raised.
The Department of Labor and Industries is given an opportunity to
reassume jurisdiction of the claim if it finds that an error was made.
If the Department does not reassume within a short time, the Board
will issue an Order Granting Appeal. The case is then under the jurisdiction
of the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals.
The Board will issue many types of notices in each case. The first
of these may be a Notice of Settlement Conference, set before an industrial
appeals judge who will attempt to mediate the case. At this conference,
the parties will try to determine if the case can be resolved without
the necessity of formal hearings. Many times, more than one settlement
conference will take place if the parties are in ongoing negotiations.
If there is no settlement in the mediation process, the case is referred
to a different judge who will schedule the case for hearing.
From this point, the case is handled according to Superior Court
rules concerning the handling of evidence and presentation of information
to the judge assigned. Although the mediation process is designed
to be relatively informal, the hearing process is more conventional.
A Notice of Scheduling Conference will be issued. At the scheduling conference,
trial dates are set. Witness confirmation due dates and other time limits
are set at this conference.
On the trial dates assigned, the testimony of expert witnesses will be
taken and made part of the permanent record, together with any evidentiary
documents and deposition transcripts. When the case is completed the
judge reads the entire record and issues a Proposed Decision and Order.
After the hearing, how long will it be until I receive a
decision and, if the decision is favorable, when will I begin to receive
benefits? What if it is not favorable?
Judges widely vary in their decision-making timetable, in part because
of differing caseloads. A rough estimate for a decision is three to
four months from the hearing date, sometimes up to six months or more,
particularly if there are complicated issues to be decided. You will
receive the Proposed Decision and Order, as
will your attorney and the other involved parties. Any party to the
appeal has the right to petition the Board for a further review of
this decision. If no Petition for Review is received, if the petition
is not granted, or subsequent to the review of the full Board in cases
where the petition is granted, the Board will issue a final Decision
and Order. Further appeal rights remain available. Any further appeal
to the decision of the Board are heard by the Washington State Superior
Court and potentially the Washington State Court of Appeals. Once
the Decision and Order has been issued, the Department of Labor and
Industries must issue its own ministerial order to adhere to the decision
of the Board. Only after this Department order has been issued will
the decision be in effect and any appropriate benefits be paid.
Do I need to have an attorney represent me before the Board
of Industrial Insurance Appeals?
Although you are not required to have representation before the Board,
our office strongly recommends that you retain an attorney. If an
appeal to Superior Court is needed in response to a decision of the
Board, the appeal is heard by a mere reading of the transcript created
via the hearings at the Board. No new evidence or testimony is usually
admitted. Therefore, it is important that the best possible record
be created during the hearing process.
The Board advises that the parties do not need an attorney during
the initial mediation stages. However, we have found that we have
a much better chance of success if we are involved in the appeal at
the earliest possible stage. If you are interested in our review of
your case, please contact us to discuss your case in greater detail.
Please feel free to contact our office for more information.
The Department of Labor and Industries, and often the employer, has legal counsel.
Even the playing field - contact our office to discuss the details of your case.