(1) An election not to proceed against the third person operates as an assignment of the cause of action to the department or self-insurer, which may prosecute or compromise the action in its discretion in the name of the injured worker, beneficiary or legal representative.
(2) If an injury to a worker results in the worker's death, the department or self-insurer to which the cause of action has been assigned may petition a court for the appointment of a special personal representative for the limited purpose of maintaining an action under this chapter and chapter 4.20
(3) If a beneficiary is a minor child, an election not to proceed against a third person on such beneficiary's cause of action may be exercised by the beneficiary's legal custodian or guardian.
(4) Any recovery made by the department or self-insurer shall be distributed as follows:
(a) The department or self-insurer shall be paid the expenses incurred in making the recovery including reasonable costs of legal services;
(b) The injured worker or beneficiary shall be paid twenty-five percent of the balance of the recovery made, which shall not be subject to subsection (5) of this section: PROVIDED, That in the event of a compromise and settlement by the parties, the injured worker or beneficiary may agree to a sum less than twenty-five percent;
(c) The department and/or self-insurer shall be paid the compensation and benefits paid to or on behalf of the injured worker or beneficiary by the department and/or self-insurer; and
(d) The injured worker or beneficiary shall be paid any remaining balance.
(5) Thereafter no payment shall be made to or on behalf of a worker or beneficiary by the department and/or self-insurer for such injury until the amount of any further compensation and benefits shall equal any such remaining balance. Thereafter, such benefits shall be paid by the department and/or self-insurer to or on behalf of the worker or beneficiary as though no recovery had been made from a third person.
(6) When the cause of action has been assigned to the self-insurer and compensation and benefits have been paid and/or are payable from state funds for the same injury:
(a) The prosecution of such cause of action shall also be for the benefit of the department to the extent of compensation and benefits paid and payable from state funds;
(b) Any compromise or settlement of such cause of action which results in less than the entitlement under this title is void unless made with the written approval of the department;
(c) The department shall be reimbursed for compensation and benefits paid from state funds;
(d) The department shall bear its proportionate share of the costs and reasonable attorneys' fees incurred by the self-insurer in obtaining the award or settlement; and
(e) Any remaining balance under subsection (4)(d) of this section shall be applied, under subsection (5) of this section, to reduce the obligations of the department and self-insurer to pay further compensation and benefits in proportion to which the obligations of each bear to the remaining entitlement of the worker or beneficiary.
[1995 c 199 § 3; 1984 c 218 § 4; 1983 c 211 § 1; 1977 ex.s. c 85 § 3.]
Severability—1995 c 199:
See note following RCW 51.12.120
Applicability—1983 c 211:
"Sections 1 and 2 of this act apply to all actions against third persons in which judgment or settlement of the underlying action has not taken place prior to July 24, 1983." [1983 c 211 § 3.] "Sections 1 and 2 of this act" consist of the 1983 amendments of RCW 51.24.050
Severability—1983 c 211: "If any provision of this act or its application to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the remainder of the act or the application of the provision to other persons or circumstances is not affected." [1983 c 211 § 4.]