What exactly is a "compensable injury?"

That is a pretty big question. The Oregon Worker's Compensation statute defines a compensable injury as an accidental injury that arises out of and occurs in the course and scope of employment requiring medical services are resulting in a disability or death. In order to prove a compensable injury, the injured worker must establish an injury with medical evidence that shows objective findings of injury.

So, there are many elements to establishing a compensable injury. First, you have to show that an injury occurred at work. Second, you have to show that the injury required medical care, or that if disabled you from work. Next, you have to show through medical evidence some objective findings supporting the existence of an injury. That leads to a question as to what "objective findings" are. Essentially, these are findings that a physician makes on examination that are repeatable and observable without input from the injured worker. Often, whether there are objective findings turns on an expert medical opinion.

If your claim involves only a "compensable injury," then you must show that the work activity was a material cause of the need for treatment or disability resulting from the injury event. You do not need to initially prove any specific medical problem, but instead the need for care or resulting disability. The term "material contributing cause" simply means that the injury event was a significant factor in causing the disability or need for treatment.

But there is a lot more. Oregon Workers' Compensation law recognizes all different kinds of compensable injuries. There are also some limitations applied to the general definition.

For example, there is a compensable injury known as a "consequential condition." This occurs when the compensable injury is the major cause of a new or different medical condition that is a direct result of the original injury or medical condition. For example, if you injured your right leg, and a cause you to favor your left leg. If a very her left leg caused medical problems to the left leg, then that could be a consequential condition. Again, a lot of this depends on medical opinions.

Then, there are "combined conditions." You will find a lot of articles on this website about "combined conditions." Essentially, a combined condition exists when an injury event, like a fall from a ladder or lifting a heavy box combines with some "pre-existing condition." Sometimes, there are disagreements as to whether not the injury combined with a pre-existing condition, or if there is a pre-existing condition at all. The key to this part of the definition is that an injured worker must show that the injury event is the major or dominant cause of the need for treatment or disability. This is why it is important to determine whether a condition or injury at work combined with some pre-existing condition.

The definition in the statute also provides a list of what is not considered a compensable injury for example, if an injured worker actively participates and assaults or combats, then that is not a compensable injury. If the worker is injured as a result of recreational or social activities primarily for the worker's personal pleasure, that is not a compensable injury under the statute.

If there is an injury on the job, and the employer is able to show that the major cause of that injury as a result of consumption of alcoholic beverages or drugs, then that is not a compensable injury unless the injured worker can show that the employer knew about the consumption, or encouraged it.  It is important to point out that "major contributing cause" means that the drug or alcohol use, more than any other factor, caused the injury.

These kinds of claims will also be categorized or classify as either "disabling," or "non-disabling." This is known as "classification." A "disabling" injury is one that causes disability from work, or is expected to result in some permanent impairment. If you have an excepted claim, the Notice of Acceptance will tell you whether your claim is classified as "disabling," or "non--disabling." It is important to know the difference, because it could affect your eligibility for other benefits. If you do not believe your claim was properly classified, you can request that the classification be amended. However, there are strict time limits, and you must make this request within one year of the date of the Notice of Acceptance.

Still have questions? Call us at 503-325-8600. We can discuss your claim, and let you know if you even need to get an attorney involved in the first place.


Joe Di Bartolomeo
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Top-rated Personal Injury Lawyer Helping Oregon and Washington Families