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Why many claims are barred by workers' compensation laws

Workers’ compensation laws were enacted to give certain guaranteed benefits to workers during a time of industrialization in the United States.  To get these guaranteed benefits injured workers had to give up their right to sue their employers for personal injury damages.  This is sometimes referred to as the “grand bargain” that is a part of workers’ compensations laws including Oregon’s workers’ compensation law. Unfortunately, with serious injury cases, the guaranteed benefits available through the workers’ compensation system are often completely inadequate.  Injured Oregon workers can be stuck, but they are not always stuck.   

Claims that aren't barred by workers' compensation

Oregon workers generally gave up their right to sue their employer. They generally did not give up their right to sue third parties on a worksite. Many worksites have multiple companies working on the sight.  There are contractors and sub-contractors.  It is important to explore the potential liability of non-employer parties.  

As an example, if an injured worker on a construction site was working for an electrical subcontractor and the general contractor and safety contractor were also involved on the site, then that worker may have a claim against one of both of those entities.  

Oregon's Employer Liability Law

Oregon has an interesting law that gives teeth to claims brought by injured workers in situations where they are involved in dangerous work, the non-employer and the employer are engaged in a common enterprise (working together), and the non-employer company has some control of or responsibility for the risk-producing activity or condition.  In these situations, the companies have the duty to use every device, care and precaution practicable for the safety of the workers.  That can become a very high burden for a non-employer third party to overcome.  

Get a free consultation

Chad Stavley has represented injured Oregon workers in accidents related to electrical subcontractors, temp agencies, tire-retreading, and construction.  If you were injured on the job, call for a free consultation.  You may have valuable claims that need to be evaluated.   Call for a free consultation.   

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Questions About Workplace Injuries

Will worker’s compensation stop paying for my medical care if I make a claim against a third party?

No.

If I get money from the third-party claim, do I have to pay back my worker’s compensation carrier for benefits I received?

Yes. ORS 656.593 sets out the requirements for resolving a third-party liability claim. First, the worker’s compensation carrier must approve the settlement of the thrd-party claim. After that approval is obtained, the statute sets out a distribution formula. Basically, attorney’s fees and costs are taken off the top. Then the worker gets 1/3 of the remaining money and the worker’s compensation carrier gets 2/3 until their lien is satisfied. After the worker’s compensation lien is satisfied, the worker gets all the remaining money. If the judgment or settlement exceeds $1 Million, the worker may elect to release the carrier for all future benefits in exchange for cancelling the lien, subject to Worker’s Compensation Board approval.

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