OREGON WORKERS' COMPENSATION LAW
A good portion of my practice includes claims under the Oregon Workers' Compensation Act and the Federal Longshore and Harbor Workers Act. I do not handle Washington State Labor & Industries - "L&I" - claims or federal workers' compensation claims involving postal workers.
Workers' compensation is the legal system that governs most workplace injuries and illnesses. Under the Oregon Workers' Compensation Act, an injured worker is entitled to medical, disability, and other benefits for injuries or diseases caused by work without regard to fault. Oregon Revised Statutes ("ORS") 656.018 says that workers cannot sue their employers in civil court for negligently-caused injuries or diseases; workers can sue in court only for intentionally-caused injuries or diseases. However, on May 10, 2001, the Oregon Supreme Court held in the case Smothers v. Gresham Transfer, Inc., that certain workers injured or made sick by their employers' negligence can sue in civil court despite ORS 656.018. Such court suits will require workers to show both that the employer was negligent and that the employer's negligence was a substantial factor, but not the major factor, in causing their injuries or diseases. In evaluating cases, I consider whether injured workers can bring negligence cases in light of the Smothers decision.
If a worker establishes a workers' compensation claim, the worker has what I call a "compensable" claim. Workers with compensable claims become entitled to certain benefits. These include time loss payments while an injury or illness prevents one from working, medical payments, permanent disability, and vocational/reemployment services. Not all workers with compensable claims receive the same benefits. What benefits get awarded depend on the particular circumstances.
The law governing workers' compensation in Oregon includes the Workers' Compensation Act, rules created under the Act by the Workers' Compensation Division of the Department of Consumer & Business Services, and interpretations of the law by the Workers' Compensation Board and the courts. The Act can be found at ORS Chapter 656. Two separate agencies, the Workers' Compensation Division and the Workers' Compensation Board, administer the law. Although these agencies share responsibility regarding certain issues, both have specific responsibility as to others. This situation has resulted in a good deal of confusion as to which agency must address a particular legal issue.
Very short time lines apply under the Oregon Workers' Compensation Act. Most importantly, a claimant must file an accident claim within 90 days of the accident and an occupational disease claim within a year of learning of the disease. A claimant must appeal a denial of a claim within 60 days of the date of the denial. A claimant also must appeal closure of his or her claim within 60 days. There are exceptions to these deadlines, and no claimant should assume that a missed deadline means that a claim is lost.
Given its complexity, Oregon workers' compensation law can trap the unwary. In representing my clients, I cut through the complexity to reach the best result. I represent all workers' compensation claimants on a contingent basis: My clients do not pay me attorney fees. Litigation of workers' compensation claims typically does involve some out-of-pocket costs, but, fortunately, the costs are relatively small by comparison with those in civil court. I understand the economic realities imposed by workplace injuries or diseases, and I work with my clients to make sure no one loses benefits the law says rightfully belong to them.
Portland Attorney at Law
1826 NE Broadway • Portland, Oregon 97232-1430 • Phone: (503) 281-6362 • Fax: (503) 288-8046
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