A workplace accident or injury can happen to you without any warning. A misplaced chair or ladder might be in your way. Or you might develop back or hand pain from the posture your job requires. However it happens to you, you may end up having to stay home to recuperate. And as your medical bills pile up, you worry about how you will get by without a paycheck.

Luckily, Washington employers must obtain coverage for employees injured on the job. But when workers apply for benefits, they may not always receive them, even if their injury is severe and won’t let them work. What should workers do after a denial?

How does workers’ comp work in Washington?

Workers’ compensation benefits can help pay for medical bills from the injury. They also replace part of the wages lost when workers must stay home to recover. And to ensure employers have access to insurance, Washington offers workers’ comp insurance through the State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). However, some employers can choose to go through a private insurer.

Protests ask L&I to reconsider

After a denial of benefits from L&I, you can protest or appeal the decision. To file a protest, you, your doctor or your employer must send the reason for the protest in a letter to the claim manager. You only have 60 days after the initial decision to send this in. Once you send it, L&I will decide if they need to change their denial or uphold it.

An appeal triggers a hearing

You also have the option to appeal the denial. You can either do this after a protest, or directly after the initial decision. Appeals go through the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals. The board asks L&I if it wants to amend the denial, and if it doesn’t, they hold a hearing.

A denial doesn’t have to be the final word

A workers’ comp denial may leave you feeling frustrated and worried about the future. But it is not the last step. You can ask L&I to reconsider giving you benefits or to appeal their decision. However, to make sure you follow the proper steps, you may want to speak with an attorney.

Workers’ comp can ensure a workplace injury doesn’t leave you drowning in debt. You can use the benefits to get by while you recover. Once you return to work, you won’t be in a hole from lost wages or medical bills.