In Oregon, there are two kinds of workers' compensation claims. The first kind of claim is known as a "injury" claim. The second kind of claim is an "occupational disease claim." Each claim is different, and the time limits to file these claims also differ.
An occupational disease claim must be filed within one year of the date the worker first discovered, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have discovered, the occupational disease or, within a year from the date the claimant becomes disabled or is informed by a physician that the claimant is suffering from an occupational disease.
In a recent case, the Board found that a claimant filed her occupational disease claim more than one year after she was informed that she had an occupational disease. In making this decision, the Board noted that the claimant had informed another physician that a prior doctor had informed her of the occupational disease claim three years ago.
This case illustrates a couple of points. First, statements made in medical records can make or break a case. Some physicians are much better at charting conversations with patients than others, and in this case, a thorough chart note sunk the case.
If a physician notifies an injured worker that there are medical condition is due to the exposure to some activity or substance in the workplace, the clock starts to take. The injured worker must file the claim within one year of that date. When we represent injured workers with hearing loss claims, the employer will often hire an investigator to take a lengthy and detailed statement. In almost every case, the investigator will ask our client whether any doctor has told them that their hearing loss is work related. Obviously, the insurance company and the employer are looking to escape responsibility with the argument that the claimant did not file the claim within the one-year time limit.
If there is any doubt that a medical condition is an occupational disease, an injured worker in Oregon should file their claim as soon as possible. If you have questions about an occupational disease claim, call us at 503-325-8600. We have much experience representing injured workers on these kinds of cases.