December 26, 2012

Occupational Disease vs. Injury

There are two main types of workers' compensation claims in Oregon.  They are categorized by the type and length of harm.

Oregon Workers' Compensation Injury Claim

The first is an work injury.  An injury stems from an acute event.  A good example is falling and breaking an arm, or bending over to lift a box and injuring a back.  These types of injuries occur immediately and can be related to a specific event (i.e., a fall).  The burden of proof for an acute injury is material contributing cause. Under Oregon law this means that the injured worker has to prove a preponderance of the evidence shows some relationship between the injurious event and the subsequent injury.  In other words, if a roofer fell from a ladder and broke his wrist, he would only have to show that he was on the ladder at work and his wrist broke from the fall.  This is often a relatively easy burden to meet, especially when there was an obvious injurious event.  It can be more difficult when the event was less obvious.  For example, if a worker developed back pain after lifting a truckload of heavy boxes, but was not sure if there was a specific moment when the injury occurred.

Oregon Workers' Compensation Occupational Disease Claim

The second type of Oregon workers' compensation claim is an occupational disease.  An occupational disease is something that develops over time.  The most common examples are carpal tunnel syndrome and hearing loss.  Stress claims are also considered occupational diseases, even when related to one event.

The burden of proof for an occupational disease claim is major contributing cause.  This means the injured worker must prove that his or her overall employment (from their whole life) is the major contributing cause (greater than 50 percent) of the occupational disease.  For example, if a truck driver developed hearing loss, it would be their burden to prove that their employment over their lifetime is the greater than 50 percent cause of the hearing loss.  This burden can be difficult to prove and it is generally harder to prevail on an occupational disease claim than an injury claim.

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