Court of Appeals: Prevenative Treatment Proves Comp Claim

Joe Di Bartolomeo
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Joe Di Bartolomeo is a top rated personal injury lawyer helping Oregon and Washington families
Posted on Nov 02, 2014

In this case, the injured worker was working as a flight attendant.  While in flight, the airplane lost cabin pressure, and the injured worker required oxygen.  After the plane landed, her symptoms continued, and she eventually sought hosptial treatment for decompression sickness, also commonly known as "the bends." The treating doctor could not say with confidence whether the injured worker suffered decompression sickness, but based on the history (what the patient reports to the doctor), as well as objective findings (what the doctor observes on examination), the doctor felt was necessary to start hyperbaric therapy, which involves administration of oxygen in a pressurized environment.

The employer had denied this claim, arguing, through its expert, that the conditions on the airplane were not sufficient to event cause decompression sickness, and because it was impossible for the employee to suffer this sickness, there was no treatment necessary, and therefore, the claim should be denied.  The treating doctor disagreed, explaining that some people will suffer decompression sickness when others do not.

The Court of Appeals reviewed the case law, and zeroed in on what the term "injury" means in the statute.  The Court found that the injured worker did not have to prove a diagnosable condition, but instead an event at work that caused symptoms requiring some form of treatment.  Then the Court found that "treatment" is not limited to curing a condition, but could include things like testing someone who may have been exposed to a contagious disease, or someone who needed preventative treatment.

This case represents a trend of Court decisions that focus on the terms in the statute like "injury" and "need for treatment." 

If you suffered an injury event at work, and needed medical care, no matter how minor, and your claim was denied, be sure to consult with an attorney about your options.  You can call us at 503 325 8600 to discuss your claim.  With offices in Astoria and Beaverton, we can meet at your convenience to discuss your claim.