Washington State workers' comp benefits rise

Workers currently receiving Washington workers’ compensation wage-replacement or pension benefits will receive a 5.445 percent cost-of-living increase effective July 1. State law requires that benefits be recalculated each year to reflect the change in the state’s average wage from the previous calendar year.

Also increasing will be the amount the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) pays for a permanent partial disability (PPD). That annual increase is based on the change in the Consumer Price Index. Effective Sunday, PPD awards will rise 3.19 percent for workplace injuries incurred July 1 and beyond. PPD awards go to workers who have lost a body part or suffered a permanent, disabling injury.

Under Washington’s workers’ compensation system, injured workers receive from 60 to 75 percent of their income, up to the legally set maximum, tax free, while they are off the job and recovering. The percentage of income is based on their marital status and number of dependents. For workers injured in 2006, the average monthly time-loss paid was about $1,690. The recalculation of benefits is based on the average annual wage of all workers in Washington. That wage, calculated by the Employment Security Department, rose to $42,584 in 2006, an increase of about 5.4 percent from 2005. As a result, the new maximum monthly benefit will be $4,258.40, or 120 percent of the state’s average monthly wage, for workers injured after June 30, 1996. Only 4 percent of L&I claimants receiving wage-replacement benefits collect the maximum.