WA Legal Roundup - Washington State Supreme Court
In a big win for Workers' Comp. Plaintiffs, the time to appeal a DLI closure doesn't begin to run until your doc has the order closing the claim in hand. The dispute centers on who is entitled to notice and why:
RCW 51.52.050(1), provides that "[w]henever the department has made any order, decision, or award, it shall promptly serve the worker, beneficiary, employer, or other person affected thereby, with a copy thereof by mail." Department closure orders can be appealed by "the worker, beneficiary, employer, or other person aggrieved thereby." RCW 51.52.050(2)(a). Workers and other persons aggrieved, including attending physicians, may ask the Department to reconsider or appeal directly to the Board. Id.
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Allowing claim closure without notifying the attending physician would prevent the person primarily responsible for treating the injured worker from participating in the process that can result in closing a worker's claim. A central purpose of the notice requirement is to allow a party aggrieved by the closure order to seek reconsideration by the Department or to appeal the order to the Board. But when the Department failed to send Dr. Cook the revised closure order, her ability to appeal the order was compromised. See WAC 296-20-09701 (attending physician may request reconsideration of Department closure orders). If Shafer's appeal window purportedly closed 60 days after Shafer received the order, Dr. Cook would never be able to dispute the Department's determination that Shafer was "stable." The Department provides no rational basis to explain how WAC 296-20-09701, which allows attending physicians to protest closing orders, can be followed by a physician who is not sent a copy of the closure order.
The full opinion (9-0, I might add) offers plenty in the way of similarly harsh wording as to how integral the attending is to this process and how she is an aggrieved party within the statute.