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July 7, 2004

Workers’ comp benefits increase 2.251 percent with cost of living

(Updated July 9, 2004 — Please note: The original version of this article contained an error that has been corrected. The actual cost of living adjustment was 2.251 percent. The earlier version of this article rounded that number up to 2.3 percent.)

TUMWATER —Workers currently receiving Washington workers' compensation time-loss or pension benefits received a 2.251 percent cost-of-living increase effective July 1.

The new maximum monthly benefit is $3,879.40 or 120 percent of the state’s average monthly wage for workers injured after June 30, 1996.

The increase is based on the average annual wage of all workers in Washington. That wage - set by the Employment Security Department - rose to $38,794, or 2.251 percent in 2003 from $37,940 in 2002.

Time-loss benefits partially compensate workers for lost wages due to a job-related injury or illness. Pension benefits are paid when a work-related injury or illness prevents a worker from becoming gainfully employed. Pensions also are paid to a worker's surviving spouse and dependent children when a workplace accident or illness results in death.

State law requires that maximum benefits be re-calculated each July 1 to reflect the change in the state's average wage from the previous calendar year.

An injured worker’s maximum time-loss or pension rate coincides with the date of their injury. For workers injured between July 1, 1995, and June 30, 1996, the maximum monthly benefit will rise to $3,717.75. Injuries occurring July 1, 1994, through June 30, 1995, will have a maximum rate of $3,556.11. Injuries on July 1, 1993, through June 30, 1994, will have a maximum rate of $3,394.47. The new monthly maximum for injuries occurring July 1, 1988, through June 30, 1993, will be $3,232.83.

Maximum time-loss and pension benefits for injuries occurring before July 1, 1988, amount to 75 percent of the state's average wage or $2,424.62 a month.

The amounts differ because over the last decade the state Legislature increased the benefits based on when a worker was injured or became ill.

The July 1 increase applies to both State Fund and self-insured employers. Labor & Industries manages the State Fund, which insures about 1.9 million workers for 155,000 employers. Another 800,000 workers are employed by companies that self-insure.

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Media contact: Robert T. Nelson, L&I Public Affairs, 360-902-6043 or nelq235@LNI.wa.gov, or visit the L&I News and Media Center at www.lni.wa.gov/News.

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