- You believe you are entitled to benefits that you have not received.
- You need surgery, long-term care, vocational assistance, or costly medical services.
- You won’t be able to return to your job due to injury.
- Your compensation has been delayed, disputed, or denied.
- Your doctor believes your injury to be permanent.
"At-Will" EmployeesIn Oregon, courts have upheld employers' and employees' rights to "at-will" employment. That means that employers can discharge an employee at any time, without giving a required "two weeks' notice" or other period of advanced notice. Unless an employee has a contract or statute outlining a specific time period for completing a job, an employer can choose to let the employee go at will. Employers must have a legal reason for discharging an employee. For example, employers can terminate employees based on poor work performance, company restructuring, or financial problems within the company. Employees can also choose to leave an employer at will. They are not required to give a period of notice to their employers. Oregon has maintained this at will employment structure because it allows for more flexibility in the workplace. Employers can adjust their staffs as workloads increase or decrease. Employees can also leave positions of employment immediately to begin a new position or escape an unfavorable work environment, if necessary. If you find that your company has at-will status, you should recognize that filing a workers' compensation claim provides a motive for your company to terminate your employment. However, your employer cannot legally fire you in retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim. Protect yourself from unlawful termination by keeping careful records of your claim and your interactions with your superiors. Write down a transcript of any communication you have with your company's management, especially if it relates to your workers' compensation claim. The more written documentation you have of your treatment in the company, the more evidence you have to present in the case of a lawsuit. If you are an at-will employee and you suspect your employer has terminated your employment because of a workers' compensation claim, you have grounds for a lawsuit. Contact a workers' compensation lawyer to review your case.
Independent ContractorsIn Oregon, employers can contract out work to independent contractors for a specified period of time. Independent contractors fill out different tax forms than permanent employees. They are not considered permanent employees, and often work with their own insurance providers in the case of workplace injury. Independent contractors also have different rights than at-will employees. First, your contract stipulates the terms of your employment. These terms include the time period you have contracted to work with the employer, the scope of the work to be completed, your payment rate, and specific reasons your contract can be terminated. Many contracts include a provision that allows the employer to terminate a contractor if he or she is unable to work for a given period of time. In this case, if you sustain an injury during work that prohibits you from working, you may lose contracts. This circumstance is different than termination as a result of a workers' compensation claim. In fact, independent contractors usually have no right to file a claim with the employers' insurance. If an employer terminates an independent contractor according to the terms of a provision in the contract, that type of termination is usually legal.
After Your RecoveryIn many cases, a workplace injury results in a temporary injury. After a suitable period of time (usually determined by the nature of your injury and your insurance company), you should be able to return to your original position. Keep in communication with your doctor to ensure you don't return to work before you fully heal, as you risk reinjuring yourself. But you also shouldn't return to work too late. If you exceed the amount of time determined to reach maximum medical improvement, your employer may have grounds to terminate your employment. If you can return to your former position after a period of recovery, you should have no problem resuming your duties. In some cases, however, your doctor may see the need to incorporate permanent work restrictions. These restrictions could limit the amount of physical energy you exert to perform your job. For example, a doctor could prescribe ergonomic work standards, limit the amount of time you sit or stand, or suggest a number of short breaks throughout the day. Your employer is required to exert reasonable effort to accommodate your work restrictions. See the Americans with Disabilities Act (http://www.ada.gov/2010_regs.htm) for more information on this topic. However, if you find that your employer refuses to work with you to reinstate you to your former employment status, you may have grounds for a workers' compensation lawsuit. Contact a workers' compensation lawyer for legal advice on your case.
InfectionsBy definition, nurses deal with sick people. When you work in close quarters with a variety of illnesses, you can expect to end up catching a few of them. However, nurses have a right to be protected against illnesses much more serious than the common cold. Employers should train their nurses to use proper hand hygiene and wear appropriate protective clothing when dealing with dangerous illnesses. You are also never too busy to take the proper precautions when caring for patients with influenza, tuberculosis, and in recent cases, Ebola.
Slip and FallsNurses encounter slippery situations every day. When you deal with bodily fluids for a living, there are bound to be some spills. At work, you often don't see these hazards coming. In the midst of a high-pressure health crisis, you might not see that puddle before you step in it. You can reduce your risk of slipping and falling by wearing appropriate footwear and developing good observation habits. Before you run down a hall or into a room, take a quick scan of the floor. This only takes half a second and could save you a lifetime of pain.
Back InjuriesBack, leg, and spine injuries are commonplace among nurses. Even if you use proper body mechanics to lift, turn, and move patients, you still put your back on the line every day. Employers should make assistive lifting tools easily accessible to the nursing staff. You should rely on these devices as much as possible to avoid hurting yourself while helping patients. Employers should also train nurses to minimize their risk of injuries through proper lifting techniques.
Hazardous DrugsWhen you administer various drugs to patients, you sometimes end up exposed to them yourself. Many drugs are inherently poisonous and can pose threats to people who don't need to take them. For example, most chemotherapy drugs are known toxins. The American Nurse (http://www.theamericannurse.org/index.php/2012/04/02/hazardous-conditions/) also reported recently about a study that linked miscarriages among nurses to exposure from sterilizing chemicals and antineoplastic drugs. Nurses should always know the potential risks of the drugs they have to handle and should receive proper training on how to protect themselves.
Needle SticksEvery time you administer an injection, you put yourself at risk for a needle stick. Even a tiny prick can expose you to many dangerous bloodborne pathogens, including hepatitis and HIV. These incidents happen most often in surgical situations and when nurses have a heavy workload. Employers should already have practices in place to help prevent and treat needle stick injuries. However, your workplace should also have adequate staffing and reasonable patient loads to reduce the threat.
Dangerous ChemicalsAs hospitals work to prevent the spread of infection, they often turn to harsher and harsher cleaning chemicals. When cleaning staff apply these chemicals all throughout the building, nurses often face long-term exposure. Employers should work to find substitutes for hazardous cleaning chemicals. As a nurse, you should also be aware of what cleaning products your janitorial staff uses and how to avoid them if you can.
RadiationRadiation and X-rays can both help and hurt people. Although these technologies benefit patients, they can put nurses in harm's way. When you have to perform X-rays or work with machines such as lasers, you have the potential for radiation exposure. Employers must train their nursing staff on how to safely work with radioactive materials and machinery. Nurses should always have access to the proper protective gear and be able to follow safety procedures.
Violent PatientsThrough your daily work, you will likely encounter unpredictable patients with unstable tempers. Emergency nurses in particular face a constant threat of physical abuse from violent patients they are trying to treat. Even otherwise well-meaning patients can unintentionally injure nurses when they're in the throes of intense pain or stress. Although violence is often unpredictable, as a nurse, you should know how to watch out for warning signs. Employers should also implement prevention programs and train their nurses on how to respond to patient violence. Important factors that can contribute to patient violence include:
- Long wait times
- Delays receiving pain medication
- Slow transfers of mental health patients
- Hearing Loss
- Printers, copy machines, etc.
- Industrial or construction equipment
- Large washing machines or sewing machines
- Musculoskeletal Disorders
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: This affects your wrist after repetitive or forceful work or extreme wrist postures. The carpals, or bones in your wrist, could collapse without treatment.
- Radial styloid tenosynovitis: This often results for the same reasons as carpal tunnel syndrome. Radial styloid tenosynovitis can become a chronic condition.
- Olecrannon bursitis: If you experience prolonged pressure in your elbows, you could develop this disorder. You can get a similar disorder, prepatellar bursitis, in your knee.
- Meniscus lesions: These occur in your knee after you spend a lot of time kneeling or squatting.
- Skin Disorders
- Asthma and Other Respiratory Problems
- Diseases Caused by Radiation
- Coal tar, pitch, and soot
- Wood dust
- Cadmium, beryllium, nickel, benzene, benzidine, benzene, or erionite exposure
- Hepatitis B or C viruses
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Meet with your preferred healthcare provider for an evaluation. He or she will analyze your condition to help you find its cause.
- If your workplace's conditions caused the disease, let your employer know what happened.
- Contact a trusted lawyer to begin filing a workers' compensation claim.
- Disability retirement benefits from the FERS or its predecessor, the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS)
- Spouse benefits
- Veteran's disability benefits
- Death benefits
- Self-Inflicted Injuries
- Intentional Misconduct
- Failure to Notify Employer
OverexertionYour body can only do so much. Overexertion results from when your muscles or joints are put to use beyond their limits. This can be from lifting heaving objects, moving in tight positions, or repeating awkward movements. Often, these types of injuries are first called a “strain.” This is often before your doctor knows all the information; before you had x-rays or an MRI. Workers compensation may accept this type of claim and call it a “strain.” Then, when you find out it is worse, workers comp will deny your benefits, saying you have a pre-existing condition. It is true, that x-rays and MRIs can help your doctor, but they often also show some type of arthritis, which is wear and tear. We all have some wear and tear. So, the x-ray and MRI findings are use against you by workers comp. Then, it becomes a fight to prove you have a serious injury and not merely a painful pre-existing condition.
Trips, Slips, and FallsMost trips, slips, and falls are avoidable with the use of proper safety procedures and equipment. However, accidents may still happen. A construction worker may trip over exposed wires or loose tools. A waiter may slip on a wet floor. A roofer may fall from an elevated platform. An orchard worker may fall for a ladder. You may be denied Workers’ compensation for these obvious injuries. Your employer may simply not believe you, or someone may say you were not hurt at work. Often you will need a witness to the injury. If no one saw it happen, you may need a witness to say they saw you at work before the injury and you were okay. Another witness may have seen you after the injury.
Motor Vehicle AccidentsNot all workers spend their day behind a desk. Many of today's workers find themselves on the open road. Truck drivers and emergency service providers, such as police officers, firefighters, and paramedics, spend most of their day traveling from one location to another. Dangerous weather conditions, heavy traffic, and fatigued and distracted drivers can all lead to injuries on the highway. Sometimes, claims like these are denied, because the workers comp says you were off the clock, or not doing work at the time you were injured. The law can be somewhat complicated about what is covered and what is not.
Workplace ViolenceEmployees spend many hours with their coworkers, so for many people coworkers often feel like a second family. It is difficult to imagine a member of your second family harming you. But, from time to time, problems do arise. Passions ignite, tempers flare, and people get hurt. This can come as a result of violence between coworkers, disgruntled former employees, or dissatisfied customers. The violence may come as physical or emotional abuse. Even when you are involved in a fight, workers comp may have to provide benefits.
Other Common Injuries Covered by Workers' CompensationWhile the incidents mentioned above are some of the most common accidents covered by workers' compensation insurance, they do not represent a comprehensive list. Other injuries and illnesses suffered while on the job, and covered by workers' comp include: Occupational illnesses including heart attacks, hernias, and mesothelioma Repetitive motion injuries If you've suffered an injury or illness on the job, it's important to know what rights you have as an employee and what your employer's responsibilities are. If you have questions about workers' compensation insurance or need help filing a claim, contact a lawyer who specializes in this area. With their expertise, you will ensure your financial and medical needs get met.
Almost every morning, you get up, you drive to work, and you clock in. Almost every evening you clock out, you drive home, and you go to bed. Then you repeat the process the next day, and the next, and the next . . .
On most days, this seamless process stays fairly uneventful. But what about those unexpected days? Those days where one small action changes your life? Perhaps you decide to buy pizza for your boss to celebrate their birthday, but then you get hit by a car outside of the restaurant. Maybe you stop by the company basketball court during your lunch break to socialize with your coworkers, but a stray ball breaks your nose.
Are you still covered for worker's compensation?
Understanding Employer Liability
Worker's compensation covers work-related injuries or illnesses. When you're on the clock, you can receive compensation, which includes payment for 100% of your medical treatment, lost work pay, and if needed a permanent disability award and vocational assistance.
However, "work-related" can be a tricky rule at best. Most states, including Oregon, have a "going and coming" rule or a "portal to portal" rule. Under this law, worker's compensation coverage doesn't begin until the employee arrives at the workplace, and it ends when he or she leaves the office at the end of the day.
Consequently, lunch breaks and daily commutes may, or may not, qualify for compensation, even if you're on your way to the workplace. So if you twist your ankle outside the deli during your lunch break or if you carpooled with your coworkers and were involved in an accident, your claim may be denied, and you likely will need the help of an attorney to figure out if you are covered.
Exceptions Do Apply
While worker's compensation doesn't usually cover injuries when you're off-the-clock, a few exceptions to this rule do exist. Depending on your situation, you might be able to receive compensation, even if you weren't at the office. Here are examples of some of the exceptions:
Sidewalks and Parking Lots
In many cases, your worker's compensation starts when you step foot on your employer's premises, not necessarily when you punch in on your time clock. These premises include sidewalks, parking lots, and grassy areas controlled by your employer. In a sense, these areas are an extension of the workplace.
So, if you slip and fall on an icy sidewalk your company neglected to maintain, you qualify for worker's compensation. It doesn't matter whether you clocked out just a few minutes before the incident.
If your employer requires you to perform a duty that directly benefits him or her, then you're still covered with worker's compensation.
For example, your boss wants you to attend a dinner with a new client. You stop by the restaurant, have a nice meal, and talk shop for an hour or two. But on your way home, a car runs a red light and crashes into your vehicle. Because you were doing a task that specifically benefited your employer, you would still qualify for worker's compensation.
However, this exception doesn't apply to all circumstances. Let's say you had a drink or two at the dinner, and you drove while intoxicated. Worker's compensation does not cover crime-related activity, which includes a DUI conviction. Even though you were doing a favor for your boss, you wouldn't receive compensation because of your misconduct.
You likely have a normal routine for your workday. Perhaps you clock in, check your email, file some documents, and attend a few meetings. Maybe you clock out at 1 p.m. for your lunch break, head to your nearest sandwich shop to pick up your favorite combo, and then head back to work at 2 p.m.
However, your boss asks you to drop off the mail during your lunch break, and pick up another sandwich and a coffee for him or her while you're at it. As you drive back to the office, you spill your boss' coffee all over your lap. The coffee was unusually hot, so you suffered severe burns.
Although you normally wouldn't receive compensation for injuries on your lunch break, your boss' extra mission would qualify you for compensation.
Your office may stay open during certain times of the day. Perhaps your typical shift starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m. You clock in and clock out at these same times every day.
However, what if your work duties don't end when you clock out for the day?
Obesity continues to rapidly increase in the United States. Statistics estimate that more than two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, and more than 6 percent of adults have extreme obesity. This represents a serious public health concern, because obesity is linked to many other diseases such as diabetes, cancer, coronary artery disease, and stroke.
Your Job May Be Killing You
According to a survey conducted by CareerBuilder, nearly half of desk-job employees gained weight in their current position, compared to 30 percent of workers in non-desk jobs.
Statistics also show that workers with obesity have an increased risk of injury. Such workers have twice as many workers compensation claims, and these injuries tend to be more severe. Our extra weight can generate more force during an accident, resulting in greater damage to vulnerable joints like wrists, ankles, and knees.
Can You Receive Workers Compensation for Obesity?
Everyone knows that workers’ compensation covers work-related injuries. Injuries are sudden harmful events. But, workers’ compensation also covers occupational diseases. These are gradual medical conditions caused by work. Examples of occupational diseases include hearing loss, carpal tunnel syndrome, and arthritis. Every disease can be covered, but only if doctors can prove that your work is the biggest cause of the disease. While obesity is not excluded from being covered, it is not likely that your work can be proved to be the biggest cause.
Can Treatment of Obesity be covered by Workers’ Compensation?
Yes! This is true even if work did not cause your obesity. Here’s why:
A Closer Look at the Sprague Case
In 1976, Edward G. Sprague injured his knee at work. He filed a claim for his knee which was accepted by SAIF. He had surgery and his knee recovered. Years went by and Mr. Sprague gained a lot of weight, reaching close to 320 pounds. This weight made his knee worse, and in 1999 he injured his knee again at work.
In addition to a knee replacement, his doctor suggested that he have a weight loss surgery- gastric bypass- to ensure full recovery.
Sprague filed a workers’ compensation claim to cover the costs, but the claim was denied, because the knee arthritis seemed to be the result of the 1976 injury. Sprague then took to the case to SAIF, but they, too, denied this claim. SAIF said that Sprague's obesity was the cause of the knee arthritis condition.
Sprague took his case to the appeals court. The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that SAIF must cover the costs of the arthritis because it happened due to the initial injury. The Court also ruled that SAIF had to cover the cost of the weight-loss surgery because it was a necessary treatment for the knee to recover.
Therefore, it is Easier to get Treatment Covered by Workers’ Compensation; then it is to get other Benefits
Because of the Sprague Court ruling, employees can receive workers’ compensation to cover the cost of weight loss surgery. More, importantly, you can get medical treatment for other condition under similar circumstances. For example, if you injure your spine at work and need spine surgery, but must have heart surgery to make you fit enough for the spine surgery, workers’ compensation must cover the heart surgery.
Not Sure If You Have a Case?
Unfortunately, workers compensation laws tend to be complicated. If you're not sure if your case qualifies for compensation, talk to a lawyer. Your lawyer can work with your doctor to determine what should be covered by workers’ compensation.