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June 19, 2002

Workers' comp benefits increase 0.9 percent with cost of living

TUMWATER - Workers currently receiving Washington workers' compensation time-loss or pension benefits will receive less than a 1 percent cost-of-living increase on July 1, 2002.

The new maximum monthly benefit will be $3,722.90 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 $37,229 or 0.9 percent in 2001 from $36,889 in 2000.

State law requires that maximum time-loss 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 $3,567.77. Injuries occurring July 1, 1994 through June 30, 1995 will have a maximum rate of $3,412.65. Injuries on July 1, 1993 through June 30, 1994 will have a maximum rate of $3,257.53. The new monthly maximum for injuries occurring July 1, 1988 through June 30, 1993 will be $3,102.41.

Maximum time-loss and pension benefits for injuries occurring before July 1, 1988 amount to 75 percent of the state's average wage or $2,326.81 a month.

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.

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 163,000 employers. Another 800,000 workers are employed by the 400 companies that are self-insured.

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