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Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between the BIIA and the Department of Labor and Industries?

Among other things, the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) is the state agency that administers the workers' compensation fund. L&I determines what benefits are to be provided to an injured worker.

The Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals (Board) is a separate state agency that is independent from L&I.

It is the Board's function to review L&I's determinations when there is an appeal by interested parties. The Board operates like a court to decide the case.

Where do I file my appeal?

By state law you must file your appeal at our main office in Olympia, Washington (please see the Filing an appeal page for more info). In Olympia, we have staff assigned to process your appeal in the most efficient manner possible. Our new appeals unit is available to answer questions about filing your appeal. [See RCW 51.52.050; WAC 263-12-01501(1)(a)]

You may also file your appeal electronically HERE. You will receive an email notification that your appeal was successfully received. If you file your appeal electronically, you do not need to mail a paper copy of your appeal.

Did you get my appeal?

When the Board receives your notice of appeal, a docket number is assigned and a Notice of Receipt of Appeal is mailed to each party the next working day. If you do not receive a Notice of Receipt of Appeal, you may call us at 360-753-6823 to speak with a staff member in our new appeals unit.

If you file your appeal electronically, you will receive an email notification that your appeal was successfully received.

How many days does L&I have to respond to an appeal once it has been filed with the Board?

In workers' benefits appeals, L&I must respond by either:

  • Sending its record to the BIIA, which permits the appeal to proceed; or
  • Changing or reversing the order under appeal; or
  • Advising the BIIA that they will reconsider their decision.

The BIIA has 60 days to decide whether the appeal will be granted. L&I must respond to the appeal within this time frame.

May I have a copy of the appeal?

When the appeal is granted, we will send you a copy of the appeal with the Order Granting Appeal. If you would like a copy of the appeal sooner, please call us at 360-753-6823.

An appeal has just been filed. I have additional information that may not be in L&I's file. Should I send it to the Board?

No. The Board does not need any additional information to make the decision to grant or deny the appeal. Once the appeal is granted, you should provide the new information during the mediation process.

You indicate that I filed an appeal, but I did not, and neither did my attorney. How did this happen?

This happens in one of two ways in most cases. First, a medical provider may have sent us a document that appears to disagree with a recent Labor & Industries decision regarding your entitlement to benefits. In most instances we will treat this as an appeal filed on your behalf, and identify it as a "claimant's" appeal in our records.

Second, you or your attorney may have sent something to the Department either as a protest or simply for informational purposes that the Department forwarded to us as an appeal.

In either case, if you do not want to pursue an appeal, you may dismiss the appeal at any time.

I did not file this appeal. Do I need to come to the conference or hearing?

If you did not file the appeal, you may choose whether to participate in the conferences and/or hearings. If you choose not to participate, it is possible that your interests could be substantially affected by the outcome of the appeal. In some instances, the outcome of the appeal might not have any effect on you. If you are not the appealing party and you would like to participate, feel free to contact our office.

If you have an opinion concerning the outcome of an appeal, you should participate in order to voice your opinion.

If a provider files an appeal, are they expected to participate?

It depends. If the provider filed the appeal on their own behalf, they are required to participate in the appeal process.

If the provider filed the appeal on behalf of the worker, the worker should probably participate if the appeal involves further benefits the worker wants to receive. Due to his/her schedule, the provider may not be able to participate. If the provider does not want to represent the worker, the Board should be notified at its Olympia address.

Questions on payment of benefits when an employer files an appeal

Payment of Benefits When an Employer Files an Appeal

The Legislature passed a new law in 2008 that provides for continued benefits during an employer appeal.  The law also allows the employer to request those benefits be stayed (stopped).

The new law does not affect appeals filed by injured workers.

Will I continue to receive benefits if my employer files an appeal?

If the order appealed by your employer was issued on or after June 12, 2008, you will continue to receive your benefits unless your employer is granted a stay by the Board. An employer must file a motion to stay benefits no later than 15 days after the Board grants the employer's appeal.  

How will the Board decide whether to grant the stay motion?

The employer must demonstrate that it is more likely than not to prevail based on the information in L&I's file as it existed on the date of the order on appeal. New medical or vocational information in the file or offered by the parties in connection with the motion cannot be considered. WAC 263-12-11802.

I am an employer.  How do I stop benefits during my appeal?

You can file a motion to stay benefits with your appeal, or file within fifteen (15) days after the appeal is granted.  The motion should specifically request that benefits be stayed during the appeal process.

Do I need an attorney?

If your case goes to hearing, you should consider hiring an attorney. The judge cannot act as your attorney and cannot represent your interests.

Your attorney:

  • Can discuss your case and concerns with you.
  • Can negotiate with the opposing party to reach an acceptable settlement.
  • Will be responsible for scheduling and questioning witnesses.

Once you hire an attorney, make sure that all communications with the BIIA come through your attorney. Your attorney is in the best position to answer your questions because he or she understands your case.

Can I bring someone with me to a proceeding?

You can bring an attorney to represent you, or a family member, friend, or union representative to help you.

Will the Board provide an interpreter to parties unable to communicate in English?

The Board will provide an interpreter in certain circumstances. If you need an interpreter, please contact us as soon as possible.

What is the difference between mediation and hearings?

Mediation is a process where a neutral person (mediator) facilitates communication between the parties, with the goal of resolving their dispute.

The hearing process is a formal litigation stage where the judge will make a decision based on the witness's testimony and the evidence presented.

Why do some parties request to attend mediation conferences by telephone?

Sometimes parties are not available to travel, but they are still interested in finding a way to resolve the case. Rather than delay the case by rescheduling the conference, the BIIA will often allow parties to appear by phone.

Can I submit medical reports instead of having to pay a doctor to testify?

Providing medical testimony can be one of the most difficult aspects of litigation and, because medical witnesses typically charge a fee, it can also be expensive. However, CR 43 directs that the "testimony of witnesses shall be taken orally in open court.

You should plan to present the testimony of your witness. Reports or letters are generally considered hearsay. Hearsay statements are not usually admissible because the opposing party cannot cross-examine the person making the statement to test the statement's accuracy. There are also many exceptions to the hearsay rule. [See ER 801, 802, 803, 804]

Can my employer appeal a L&I decision that awarded me benefits?

The employer's industrial insurance premium may be affected by the allowance of a claim. Therefore, they have a legal stake in the filing of a claim by an injured worker. Also, while they may agree that you were injured at work, they may disagree with the benefits approved by L&I. Accordingly, workers, beneficiaries, employers, or other parties affected by a L&I decision may appeal to the Board. [See RCW 51.52.050]

Why do I have to call the Olympia office when my judge is located somewhere else?

We have judges and staff in several locations around the state. Judges may be assisted by staff in more than one location. It is best to call the main office in Olympia to determine who can assist you.

Why is my judge located in Olympia when you have an office in my area?

The Board's main office is in Olympia. We have regional offices around the state, but the majority of our staff is located in Olympia.

Why can I speak to the judge in mediation, but not in hearings?

A mediation judge helps the parties reach an agreement. The mediator will not decide the case. The mediator may talk to the parties separately. This is called ex parte contact. Talking to the parties individually can often lead to a successful resolution of the case. If the case does not settle in mediation, it will be given to a hearing judge, who will conduct a formal hearing.

The hearing judge will write a decision resolving all issues raised by the Notice of Appeal. The judge considers only admissible evidence presented during the hearing. The hearing judge cannot have ex parte contact with any party to the case. It would be unfair for one party to discuss the merits of the case with the hearing judge without all parties being present.

May I speak to a Board member about a case?

The Board members are the final legal authority on all Board orders. It would be unfair and unethical for a Board member to speak to any party about an active case.

After the last hearing, how long before a decision is made and issued?

It takes a court reporter approximately four weeks to transcribe a deposition or hearing. It is the Board's goal that judges issue decisions as soon as possible after all transcripts are received. This generally takes between 20-60 days. At times, due to the complexity of the appeal, it may take longer.

Now that the Board has issued its final order, when am I going to receive my benefits?

If the Board decides in your favor, it directs the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) or the self-insured employer to pay your benefits.

L&I or the self-insured employer is obligated to pay benefits ordered by the Board within a reasonable processing period from the receipt of the Board's order. You should contact L&I immediately after you receive your order to obtain their payment date.

Follow this link for information on checking the status of a claim with L&I: Claim Status at the Department of Labor and Industries

Do I need to send the Board anything regarding my superior court appeal?

Yes. Please send a copy of the superior court appeal, including the superior court cause number assigned to the appeal. Please check with us before sending any other documents.

What do I do with the Jurisdictional History?

You should have the Jurisdictional History (yellow sheets sent with the order granting the appeal) with you for each event involving a judge.