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June 29, 2007

Workers’ compensation benefits to increase 5.445 percent

TUMWATER — Workers currently receiving Washington workers’ compensation wage-replacement or pension benefits will receive a 5.445 percent cost-of-living increase effective Sunday, 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 & 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.

Maximum benefits differ depending on when an injury occurred because, in 1996, the state Legislature increased the percentage of the state’s average wage used to set the maximum benefit level.

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 causes a worker to be totally and permanently disabled. Pensions also are paid to a worker's surviving spouse and dependent children when a workplace accident or illness results in death.

The July 1 increase applies to both State Fund and self-insured employers.


For media information: Robert T. Nelson, L&I Public Affairs, at 360-902-6043

Broadcast version
The Department of Labor & Industries announced today that injured-worker benefits will increase by 5.445 percent effective July 1. The increase affects wage-replacement and pension benefits for workers injured on the job. Also benefiting will be the surviving dependents of workers who died as a result of their injuries or illness.

The new maximum monthly benefit L&I will pay is $4,258. L&I says most workers and their dependents receive far less than that. Last year, the average time-loss payment was $1,690.

Also increasing will be the amount L&I pays workers who suffer a permanent partial disability. L&I says that amount will increase 3.19 percent for workers injured on or after July 1.

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