Things to Consider When Appealing an L&I Audit Decision — How Far to Appeal (Part 4)

Like any other legal matter, L&I audit decisions can be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. But given that the proper result can almost always be deciphered and arrived at in the early stages, it is the rare case that needs to be appealed beyond L&I’s Request for Reconsideration Process or the Board of Industrial Appeals level. Below is a discussion of the various levels of appeals, including where L&I audit decisions typically get resolved:

How far should you take your appeal?

The general flow of an L&I audit decision appeal from the lowest forum to the Washington State Supreme Court is as follows:

Step 1 – L&I Request for Reconsideration

Step 2 – Appeal to Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals

Step 3 – Appeal to a State Superior Court sitting in an appellate capacity

Step 4 – Appeal to the Washington State Court of Appeals

Step 5 – Appeal to the Washington State Supreme Court

The first and best place to resolve cases is in the Request for Reconsideration process. This process is a cost efficient and less formal appeal, and allows you or your attorney to work directly with an L&I representative (known as a “litigation specialist”) to review an audit decision, present/consider additional evidence, and ultimately make corrections to the auditor’s findings. Litigation specialists are also empowered at this stage to reduce and/or waive penalties and interest owed, which can substantially reduce the amount of the assessment. It’s often the case that a properly handled Request for Reconsideration will result in a correct and/or acceptable decision, and it will not be worth the cost and hassle of appealing further. Clients should therefore think carefully before rejecting an offer in the Request for Reconsideration phase.

There will be times, however, where it becomes necessary to appeal to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals. This may occur if the litigation specialist handling the reconsideration is being intransigent and doubling down on an incorrect audit decision. Or it could be required if the matter wasn’t properly managed and presented in the Request for Reconsideration process and additional time is needed to properly resolve the issue. And even in appeals to the BIIA, these matters can often be resolved prior to a scheduled board hearing.

After taking the matter to the Board and after receiving the same decision in the audit, in the Request for Reconsideration process, and then again from the Board, it’s rarely ever the case that it will be productive to appeal beyond the Board. Obviously, cases get appealed beyond the Board level all the time, but as a practical matter, this only makes sense if you’re convinced L&I and the Board got it wrong, and you’re convinced that the law and facts are on your side (I’d add “clearly” on your side), and your pockets are deep enough to take on an emboldened L&I and its attorneys through the subsequent levels of appeals.

As discussed above, in most cases, an appeal of an L&I audit decision can and should be resolved at the lowest levels of appeals. And most clients should only take their appeals to the higher levels of appeals if they’re seeking to change L&I policy or change the law.

This concludes our overview of the L&I appeal process. Trust you’ve found it helpful!

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