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Workers’ Compensation

Advocating For Injured Workers In The Oregon Workers' Compensation System

We can help you navigate Oregon’s workers’ compensation system, understand your options, and receive your benefits.


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 Workers’ Compensation in Oregon: The Basics

When you get hurt on the job, workers' compensation (sometimes referred to as workmans' comp) should cover your medical care and wage loss so you can focus on healing. Unfortunately, this simple idea has become very complicated under Oregon's current workers' compensation system and many workers find they need an attorney's help to convince the insurer to pay them their benefits.

Oregon adopted its first workers’ compensation system in 1913. Oregon workers who get hurt on the job are entitled to certain benefits. Most Oregon employers fall within the state law and are required to insure their workers against on-the-job injuries. Employers must pay workers’ compensation benefits to injured workers whether the injury was the employer’s fault, the worker’s fault, or an unforeseeable accident.

There Are Four Types of Workers’ Compensation Benefits

1. Medical Benefits

Medical benefits include all medical services that are reasonable and necessary for your work injury or disease (hospital costs and doctors fees for emergency room, clinic, office visits, surgery, medication, physical therapy, etc.), and mileage to and from your visits.

2. Time Loss Benefits

Time Loss benefits replace 2/3 of your average weekly wage if you can’t work because of your injury, and supplements your wages if you are working a modified job for less money. Your average weekly wage is based on what you earned in the 52 weeks before the work injury and should include any regular overtime worked and performance-based bonuses earned. Time loss benefits are not taxable as income.

3. Permanent Disability Benefits

PD benefits offer an award of money at the end of a claim based on your degree of permanent impairment and can include an additional work disability award if you are unable to return to full-duty work. This award is not taxable as income.

4. Vocational Rehabilitation Benefits

Vocational rehabilitation is often available if you cannot return to your regular job and cannot find work that pays at least 80 percent of your pre-injury wages. You'll work with a vocational counselor to develop a plan that can include paying you time-loss benefits while you are retraining.

Your Legal Options in Oregon

You cannot sue your employer for your injury. Your only remedy from your employer is your workers’ compensation claim.This is a “trade off” in the law that came about when state workers’ compensation laws were adopted 100 years ago. You do not have to show that anyone was at fault in causing your injury, but the trade-off is that the only remedy you have is a workers’ compensation claim. HOWEVER, if your work injury was caused by someone or something other than your employer (examples: a worker from a different employer or a defective product) you may have a right of action against that “third party” in addition to your workers’ compensation claim.

For more information, refer to our Personal Injury section.

You may be able to file for benefits outside of the workers’ compensation system for disabling on-the-job injuries, including social security disability. For more information about a social security disability claim, refer to the Social Security section.

The Workers’ Compensation Process

You should ALWAYS inform your employer about any work injury IN WRITING. You do not have to fill out a particular form, although many employers have a form called an “801 Form.” Keep a copy of any report you give to your employer.

If your workers’ compensation claim is denied, you should consult with a lawyer to see if it can be reversed. You have a strict 60-day deadline for requesting a hearing on a denial, so act promptly. Your lawyer’s fee will be paid by the insurer if you win. If you lose there is no lawyer’s fee.

You want to retain a lawyer who will agree to keep your case even after you prevail over a denial because disputes can arise over every type of workers' compensation benefit. The insurer may deny medical care, miscalculate time-loss benefits, close your claim too soon, or refuse to close it at all. They can short-change your permanent disability award, assess an overpayment of benefits, refuse to give you vocational benefits or try to take your vocational benefits away. All of these actions can be challenged, and sometimes penalties can be assessed on the insurer.

Depending on the type of dispute, your lawyer gets paid either a percentage of the increased compensation awarded, or the insurer is required to pay the lawyer a fee.

Insurers often push claimants to settle their claims and sometimes settling the claim works best for the injured worker. Your lawyer is in the best position to help you determine whether and when settlement is in your best interest, determine the value of the claim, maximize the final settlement amount, and make sure your interests are protected.

Workers' Compensation

How do I find a good doctor?

You should see if your primary care doctor will help you. However, many primary care doctors no longer deal with Workers’ Compensation. If that’s the case, look for a reputable doctor. Check reviews, ask other injured workers who their doctor was or check with a workers’ compensation attorney. Finding a good attending physician is the single most important thing you can do to get the care you need and benefits you are entitled to for your injury.

Do I have to follow up with the doctor that I am directed to at an urgent care clinic or the emergency room?

If you initially present for treatment at an urgent care clinic or the emergency room, you will often be directed to a follow up appointment. You are not obligated to follow up with that doctor but rather can choose to find another doctor of your choosing. Because your attending physician is so important to your claim, it is important to find a doctor you trust that is supportive of your claim.

Can my employer tell me where to get medical treatment?

No, it is against the law for your employer to direct your medical care. Instead, you are free to seek medical care with a provider of your choosing. If you don’t know where to go, your primary care doctor is often times a good place to start. If the employer has directed your care, alert the ombudsman for injured workers at 503-378-3351.

I’m doing modified work for my employer but what do I do when they give me work beyond my restrictions?

Unfortunately, this is a common problem. The best way to handle this is to have a copy of your doctor’s work restrictions with you at work. If you are asked to do work that is outside of your restrictions, politely point out that what you are being asked to do is outside your doctor’s restrictions. Make clear that you want to do modified work, but that you cannot physically do what is being asked of you. Talk with your attending physician about any problems you are having to see if the doctor can clarify or further restrict the work you are being released to. It is very important that your doctor and employer do not think you just don’t want to work. If the doctor thinks you are trying to shirk work, it creates real problems with your claim.

What if I get injured on the job but I’m not sure I want to file a workers’ compensation claim?

You should document an injury sustained on the job in writing and notify a supervisor immediately, even if you do not plan to file a workers’ compensation claim. While initially a tweak or a strain sustained on the job may not seem like a big deal, you protect your right to file a workers’ compensation claim in the future.


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Workers’ Compensation

Representative Cases

Yokum v. SAIF, et al 1994

We won a workers’ compensation case on behalf of a painter for chronic encephalopathy (brain damage). The painter worked for seven different employers over a 15 year period.
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Irving v. Baugh Construction, et al 1994

$347,000 jury verdict in workers’ compensation third party case for sheet metal worker injured when scaffold collapsed at a construction project.
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Hodge v. Sullivan 1994

We won a federal decision preventing most offsets of state workers’ compensation awards against social security benefits in Oregon.
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Thanks & Praise

Testimonials

  • I practiced workers’ compensation law in Portland for over 40 years. 
    In 2012 I was retained by a 36-year-old man who sustained severe injuries, including the loss of both hands, as a result of having been electrocuted while working as a lineman for a power company in Oregon.  Since I was planning to retire in 2015 and the battle over the extent of his permanent disability was just beginning to heat up, I looked for another attorney to associate with and take over the case if necessary.  After speaking with Chris Frost, I concluded that she was the right choice and my client agreed. With her help, we were then able to achieve a very desirable result for our client in a relatively short period of time.  Chris and her staff have the reputation of being the best workers' compensation firm in Oregon and my client and I were fortunate to work with them.  I am pleased to recommend her.
    Doug Hagen, Portland
  • I practiced personal injury law in Portland for most of my nearly forty-one-year career.
    In 2012 I was retained by a 31-year-old husband and father of two who had been catastrophically injured - including being permanently blinded in both eyes - when he was run over by a piece of construction equipment in a work accident in Clark County, Washington.  In on-the-job accidents, a worker may not sue his employer for negligence and this was one of those cases where any case against other contractors on the job would be expensive, legally complex and technically challenging.  I decided, after conducting many hours of research and investigation, that a case could be made but it would be a long and expensive undertaking.  While continuing to work on the case, I began looking for help from another firm.  I talked with a number of lawyers but each of them thought that the case would be too expensive and difficult to take on. Then a trial lawyer friend of mine recommended Ray Thomas and his firm. I had known Ray for many years and called him up and gave him an overview of the case. He was aware of the difficulties but felt the case had merit, so he and his partner Cynthia Newton filed a Freedom of Information action and obtained access to all of the thousands of pages of documents for the construction project. The documents revealed that the other contractors on the job site had failed to provide a job site plan for safe movement of equipment and traffic, despite the fact that run over, backing and pinch point injuries and deaths are extreme dangers for workers on jobs like this one. Their partner, Jim Coon, filed the personal injury and loss of consortium lawsuit in both Oregon and Washington, and he fought to obtain the necessary legal rulings to go forward with the case. After many depositions and other preparation for trial, the case was finally settled shortly before trial, in February 2017, in a confidential settlement that included satisfaction of a large Washington Labor and Industries lien.  I believe that the work done by Ray, Jim, Cynthia and their staff was pivotal to obtaining an excellent result for our client, and also delivered the important message that job traffic control safety is important. Without their strong work it is unlikely that such favorable results would have been obtained.
    Doug Hagen, Portland
  • Thanks Chris and Aaron for the great work you did with my Workers’ Comp case.
    You handled everything so well, I was happy with the settlement amount and the turnaround time. I’m definitely referring people to you, you were great.
    Lily, Portland
  • When I fell at work
    and got a concussion, I was surprised by how many serious symptoms I was having. I had not known what a “mere” concussion can really do to someone. Then, to add insult to injury, my workers compensation claim did not go smoothly. Luckily, though, I called Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton, and spoke with Stephanie Bales, Christine Frost’s assistant. She was like a ray of sunshine for me: someone who listened to me, took me seriously, and made me feel as if there was someone out there ? besides my doctor ? who was on my side. That meant a lot to me.
    Margie, Portland
  • We had another lawyer
    who was retiring and told us we needed to find another lawyer. We talked with Chris who was the first person who actually took the time to sit down and talk to us about what was happening and explained how the workers’ comp system worked and helped us very much in deciding what to do about our case. Chris was amazing, and a fountain of information and we could tell she really knew what she was talking about.
    Cheryl and Jeff, Walla Walla, WA
  • I had a worker’s comp claim
    and was nervous about getting a lawyer, but I am glad I did. Chris and her staff were great about explaining things. They sorted out my time loss rate and got me a good settlement.
    Suzette, Portland
  • I am a registered nurse
    who had a very complex workers’ compensation case and had basically lost hope. Chris Frost took this case even though 5 years had already passed and there was a large volume of documentation to sift through. She was thorough and creative and won my case! Her staff was great to work with. I highly recommend Chris Frost to anyone needing help with a Worker’s Compensation matter.
    Connie, Eastern Oregon
  • My name is John Gray
    and as a former and extremely satisfied client of Swanson Thomas Coon and Newton I would like to briefly convey my experience. The firm has represented me from the onset of my Work place accident, through the hurdles of the Oregon Worker’s Compensation system, Third Party Liability, all the way to Social Security Disability. The specialized representation I received has made my life better in too many ways to share. My education by my attorneys on all the pitfalls of each claim type and area, meant knowledgeable communication by myself and my attorneys, resulting in a positive resolution on all counts.
    John W. Gray Jr
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