Upjohn Institute studies Washington state workers' compensation program

The Upjohn Institute is studying the quality and effectiveness of a workers’ compensation reform implemented by Washington state. This reform allowed some claimants to settle their claims with the Department of Labor & Industries as either a lump sum payment or in a series of structured payments.

Workers and other stakeholders are an important part of this study. We are conducting confidential interviews and focus groups with several different groups of people involved in the process—workers, legal representatives and employers—to learn more about their perspectives. These interviews and focus groups complement our analysis of quantitative data on the program.

Ultimately, the goal of this research is to help policymakers understand the experience of the relevant parties and figure out how to improve the settlement process for others in the future.

Background: The  Claim Resolution Settlement Agreements program

Workers’ compensation provides payments to workers who have work-related injuries or illnesses. Because each state runs its own workers’ compensation program, states have some flexibility in how they are set up. Most workers’ compensation programs provide monthly cash benefits to injured workers over a long period of time. 

In recent years, Washington state made it possible for workers aged 50 or older to negotiate a “claim resolution settlement agreement,” or CRSA, that provides a lump sum to the worker and permanently closes the claim.

When the Washington State Legislature passed the law to enable CRSAs, it required studies to be carried out to evaluate their quality and effectiveness. 

As a nonprofit research organization that specializes in research about work and employment, the Upjohn Institute was asked by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries to carry out studies about the CRSA program in 2015 and 2019. We examined the program’s consequences for workers and employers, including whether it was seen as fair and timely. The current study in 2023 completes the series.

Have you received an invitation to participate in the study?

We are inviting individuals who have had a workers’ compensation claim in Washington State in the past few years to participate in this research. One of the best ways for us to learn more about the settlement (CRSA) process is to talk with people who have been involved in the process. 

We are also talking with workers’ compensation claimants who have not had a settlement, in order to find out whether a CRSA settlement would be valuable to them.

If you have received a letter inviting you to participate in an interview or focus group, we hope you will agree to take part. We want to learn more about what works well and what doesn’t work well about the current process, and your input is very important. Your perspectives could shape the future of the CRSA program.

Your participation is strictly confidential and entirely voluntary. We won’t include your name or any other identifying details in any of our reports, and you can opt out of the study at any time or decline to answer any of the questions we ask you. Nothing you share with us will have any effect on any workers’ compensation claims or settlements you have.

If you have received an invitation, we would be happy to schedule an interview or focus group over Zoom at a time that is convenient for you. With your permission, we will record our conversation in order to help us remember the details more accurately, but the recording will only be used by the research team, and it won’t be shared with L&I or made public. 

Interviews and focus groups usually last about an hour. You will be offered a gift card as a thank you for your time and participation.

If you are willing to participate, please let us know by returning the stamped envelope that came with your invitation, or by contacting study administrator Elizabeth Kellogg at kellogg@upjohn.org or 269-569-2203.  We look forward to hearing from you.

If you have questions or if you would like to find out more about the study first, please contact Brian Asquith, Ph.D., who is directing this study, at asquith@upjohn.org or 269-385-0459.

Date: May 19, 2023