Nobody starts the day expecting to get hurt on the job. Unfortunately, injuries in and around the workplace are all too common. In fact, a work injury can happen in so many ways, it’s surprising that more employees don’t end their workdays being examined by a doctor.
According to the United States Department of Labor, the most common cause of on-the-job injury is overexertion. Whether in an acute event or through cumulative trauma, overexertion is the biggest factor in work-related shoulder and back injuries. Lifting loads heavier than about 50 pounds increases the risk of injury. Many of the tools and machinery around workplaces are easily heavy enough to put great stress on muscles, discs, and vertebrae. Objects like boxes and cases can be equally hazardous. Manual materials handling is the principal cause of compensable work injuries with most involving the lower back and occurring while the employee was lifting.
Slips, trips, and falls either on the same level or down to a lower level are other common work injury causes. Work falls can be and often are fatal. They’re second only to motor vehicles as a cause of accidental deaths. Being struck by an object or equipment is another frequent job injury category. Further work injuries can result from bending, crawling, reaching, twisting, kneeling, sitting. Repetitive strain injuries can arise from frequent activity that uses the same muscles or muscle groups to complete tasks within a short period.
It’s painful to think about all of those injuries and the partial or total disability that they often cause. Even worse, many claims for those work injuries are initially denied. A workers’ comp insurer’s claim denial can leave an injured employee not only in extreme pain but with no means of paying for medical treatment, replacing lost wages, or vocational rehabilitation if he or she can no longer do the job because of the injury.
The workers’ compensation system is supposed to provide at least a minimum level of benefits to workers in exchange for their being relieved of the burden of proving that employer negligence caused a work injury. But the claim process can be adversarial and difficult. Employers pay premiums for workers’ compensation insurance, and premium amounts are directly affected when injured workers file claims for benefits. The bottom line is a strong incentive to find a reason to deny claims. A denial shifts the burden to the worker to prove that employment was a cause of the injury and need for medical treatment.
An attorney experienced in workers’ comp claims is practically a necessity. This is especially so when workplace injuries are moderate to severe or there are preexisting disabilities. But even if the harm is less than severe, many people just feel more comfortable with the help of an attorney who understands the workers’ comp system. It’s not surprising. Workers’ comp is a maze of administrative rules and decisions. Valuable rights can be lost by a failure to meet time limits or comply with other requirements. And workers’ compensation insurers are experienced players in litigation. Fortunately, Oregon law provides for attorney fees to be paid by the employer or workers’ compensation insurer when claim denials are set aside or other benefits are obtained for the worker by a lawyer. If you don’t succeed, you won’t owe an attorney fee.
As an Oregon workers’ compensation attorney, I work hard to make things better for injured employees. It doesn’t matter if they’re at the start of a workers’ comp claim, facing a denial of benefits, or trying to protect benefits that they’re receiving from an employer trying to end them.