Reopen Your Workers’ Comp Claim in Portland, OR

Written by Adian Martin on . Posted in Posts: Workers' Compensation

Is your claim closed?  Have you received a Notice of Closure?  Even after your "Notice of Closure," you still have important rights.  First, if your claim was closed too soon, you may appeal the Notice of Closure and keep your claim open.  Or, if your claim has been closed, you can reopen a worker's compensation claim.  

You must know that your claim should only be closed after you have completed healing. Most of the time, your doctor will tell you that you are "medically stationary."  This means your doctor can do nothing more to make you better.  You may still be in pain, and you may have permanent restrictions.  If so, you may get a disability award and vocational assistance.   Your Notice of Closure will say if you get a disability award.  You may appeal the Notice of Closure and get an increase in disability compensation, or keep you claim open if you have not finished healing.  

Later, even after your claim has been closed, it can be reopened!  There are 2 ways to reopen an Oregon Workers' Compensation claim: 

If your condition is worse, you can ask your doctor to file an Aggravation. You fill out a Form 827 at your doctor’s and check the box on the form that says “Report of aggravation of original injury.”  Your doctor must send in this form and a report describing how your condition is worse.  If you can not work, your doctor must give you written permission to be off work to get your workers' comp pay started again. 

If you have another condition caused by your injury, that has not been accepted, you can ask for the claim to be reopened to include it.  This is called a new medical condition claim, or an omitted medical condition claim.   For example, say SAIF accepted your claim for "Lumbar Strain," but you also have a herniated disc.  You can make a claim for the disc, and reopen your closed claim.  Again, remember if you can not work, get your doctor to give you a written excuse or restrictions to get your workers' compensation pay started.   

There is no time limit on your ability to open a closed claim.  After 5 years, a claim for a worsened condition must be made as a request for what is called "own motion benefits."  There are some added hurdles to clear to get such a claim reopened.  So, remember that even after your aggravation rights run out in 5 years, you can still get workers' compensation!  

When you get a Notice of Closure you can have an attorney review if for free.  If your claim has been closed, you may need a lawyer to help reopen your Oregon workers' compensation claim.  If so, call Ransom, Gilbertson, Martin and Ratliff.  

What to Look for in a Workers’ Compensation Attorney in Portland, OR

Written by Adian Martin on . Posted in Posts: Workers' Compensation

If you have been injured at work, you might not have any idea how to find a good workers’ compensation attorney. Not every lawyer will treat your case the same, and it’s important to find the right one. Here are a few tips to guide you in your search:

Personality

One important thing to look for in an attorney is personality.  You should feel comfortable speaking with your lawyer.  Your lawyer should treat you with the respect you deserve. But, your lawyer should also not sugar coat your case, and hide the truth from you.   You want the facts, and you want to know if your case is a good one or not.  

Don’t feel like you need to hire the first lawyer you meet.  Many lawyers will try to tell you how much they think your case is worth, or what they can get you even before they have read all the records.  Don't be fooled by smooth talking.  

Get an Experienced Workers' Compensation Attorney

Sitting down and Googling for a local workers’ compensation attorney might be overwhelming.  You might not know any of them by name or reputation.  If this is the case, you might ask coworkers, family or friends for their recommendations.

But, this may not tell you all you would like to know.  Oregon Workers' Compensation laws are complicated, and you should look for an experienced lawyer.   Why does experience matter?  Well, since the law is complicated there are simply lots of rookie errors.  Many injured workers call me after a mistake has been made in their case. Sometimes these can be fixed.

The 4 lawyers at Ransom, Gilbertson, Martin and Ratlfiff have a combined 60 years of Oregon Workers' Compensation experience.   

Red Flags

Not every lawyer is created equal. Here are a few red flags to watch out for when you’re looking for representation:

  • They never worked your kind of case before.
  • They do not tell you what you need to know.
  • They do not answer your questions.
  • All they want to talk about is settlement, and you just want to get better.
  • They do not get you the benefits you need.
  • The staff is not organized, unfriendly, or appears to have a poor relationship with the attorney.
  • They bill you for every little thing.

Positive Signs

Here are a few positive signs to look for:

  • They treat you with respect and courtesy, but don't sugar coat bad news.
  • The  staff is competent and friendly.
  • There are no hidden expenses.
  • You feel comfortable and safe leaving your case in their experienced hands.

If you have any further questions about finding a good lawyer or want to set up a free consultation with Ransom, Gilbertson, Martin & Ratliff, give us a call at 1-800-371-3664 or 503-226-3664.

When to Hire a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Written by Adian Martin on . Posted in Posts: Workers' Compensation

Oregon Workers’ Compensation laws were created to ensure that employees receive the benefits they are entitled to in case of an on-the-job injury. So why would you need a workers’ compensation lawyer if you are already protected by the law?  Lots of reasons!

If your case falls into one of these categories, call a worker’s compensation lawyer. The Oregon Workers' Compensation system can be complicated, but you don’t have to deal with it alone.

Dispute over Your Injury

If a significant time period has gone by since your injury, if your employer claims that your injury did not happen at work, or if a the workers' compensation insurance company, like SAIF, claims you have preexisting conditions, you need to consider hiring a lawyer. They can determine if your employer’s claims are valid, and if you deserve more than they’re offering.

Delay, Denial or Underpayment of Your Benefits

Sometimes your benefits, like workers' compensation disability pay, may be late, paid in the wrong amount, or not paid at all.   Other times, you may be awarded a permanent partial disability amount in a Notice Of Closure that is just not fair.   Your employer, insurance company, or SAIF may even try to completely deny you the benefits to which you are entitled.  A lawyer can help you get these benefits that you are entitled to by law! Your work has paid for workers' compensation.  Now that you are injured, you should get the benefits that you are entitled to by law. 

Unlawful Retaliation

If you are laid off and you think this may be because of your injury, a lawyer can help you get to the bottom of the situation. It is illegal for employers to fire you because of a workers’ compensation claim, and a lawyer can bring the case against your employer to court if need be.

All Workers' are Covered without regard to Fault

People might think that they can only get workers’ compensation when they are severely injured, or if their job is undeniably dangerous (such as construction or working with heavy machinery).  This is not true.  Any worker with an injury requiring medical attention or resulting in any disability that occurred at work may file a claim.  Workers’ compensation laws cover your injury even if it is your own fault, your employer's fault, a coworkers' fault or the fault of a third party.   Whose fault it is just doesn't matter! 

If you have any further questions about your eligibility to make a claim or want to set up a consultation with one of our lawyers, contact Ransom, Gilbertson, Martin & Ratliff at 1-800-371-3664 or 503-226-3664.

Workers’ Compensation Claim Denied Preexisting Condition

Written by Adian Martin on . Posted in Posts: Workers' Compensation

     Your Oregon Workers' Compensation claim may be denied for different reasons. Often, SAIF and other insurance companies may say your work injury has combined with a preexisting condition. This is a common reason for claim denials.

     Let's look at an example:  A middle-aged construction worker in Portland, OR, had an on-the-job low back injury when he fell down a flight of stairs.  Aside for some soreness, he never had any real low back pain before.  After the low back injury, he had severe back pain which shot down the back of his right leg.  It felt like burning pins and needles. He could not work anymore and needed help.  

     He went to a Portland ER, and was referred to an occupational medicine specialist. An MRI was done and it showed a herniated disc.   A workers' compensation claim for       portlandspinemri

the herniated disc was filed.  After he filed his claim, SAIF sent him to a medical exam with one of their IME doctors.   Weeks later, SAIF sent a claim denial.   The worker called Ransom, Gilbertson, Martin and Ratliff and we requested a hearing about the claim denial.

     In such cases, SAIF and other insurers must prove to the workers' compensation judge that there was a preexisting condition.  There are two types of preexisting conditions:  1) a condition that has been medically treated before the work injury, or 2) arthritis.  If a preexisting condition is proven, SAIF or the insurer must next prove the preexisting condition was the major cause of the disability or need for medical treatment after the work injury.  

     Workers' compensation judges look closely at the medical opinions given by IME doctors, and it is very important that your own doctor write a report for the judge explaining why your work injury is the major cause of your disability or need for treatment.  Ransom, Gilbertson, Martin and Ratliff can help you prepare for your hearing with the judge on your denied claim.  

    We fought the construction worker's case all  the way to the Oregon Court of Appeals, and he finally won.   As the Oreogn Workers' Compensation Board decsion in that case shows, you need an experienced lawyer in this type of case.     http://www.cbs.state.or.us/external/wcb/2007/remand/dec/0306069a.pdf

Denied Worker’s Compensation Claim in Portland, OR

Written by Adian Martin on . Posted in Posts: Workers' Compensation

We at Ransom and Gilbertson are often called about denied Workers' Compensation Claims.   Many of the injured workers say:  "But, I was injured on the job!  I have witnesses.  How can they deny my claim?"      

Workers' Compensation Insurance companies, like SAIF, Liberty, Sedgwick, Hartford and others, deny claims for many different reasons.   The law is complicated, and IME doctors hired to exam injured workers can make the facts of your injury complicated.    

Let's look at why a claim may be denied.   It is important to know that there are two things a worker must prove to win when they have claim denial.   First, the obvious thing we all think about:  "Did the injury happen on the job."   Your testimony at a workers' compensation hearing, and the testimony of your witnesses, maybe your boss and other workers will help a workers' compensation judge sort this out.

The second thing an injured worker must prove is called "medical causation."   This is the tricky part.   Even when you prove you were injured on the job, your claim may be denied because of "medical causation."   Let's look at an example:  A worker's back is injured lifting something heavy at work.  There are many witnesses.  The worker never had any back pain before this injury.   The worker has back x-rays and an MRI, and is sent to an IME.  The injury claim is denied.   The denial says there is a preexisting condition.    This denial is based on "medical causation."   Simply put, the workers' compensation insurance company is saying you were injured on the job, but your injury is not the biggest reason for your disability and need for medical treatment.  

"Medical causation" claim denials are about medical questions, like:  "What do the x-rays and MRIs show?"  "Did the change in symptoms mean a change in pathology?"  "Was there arthritis, and did it contributed to the cause of the condition?"  To get a good answer these questions you need a good doctor and a good lawyer.   We at Ransom Gilbertson Martin Ratliff have helped many injured workers with claim denials based on preexisting conditions.  If you have a denial, call us for a free consultation.

In our next blog post, we will discuss in detail what insurance companies and IMEs mean when they say an injured worker has a "preexisting condition."