The 2021 legislative session is getting underway, and Johnson Johnson Lucas & Middleton is working in conjunction with the attorneys and staff at the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association in advancing a number of legislative proposals to improve the lives of injured workers.

One problem many workers run into is sudden disruption of their benefits for lost wages.  This can happen for a variety of reasons, but often it is because the insurer doesn’t have something they need (like the work restrictions).  Many times our clients will contact us about the status of their payment when it is a couple days past due because they weren’t notified anything was missing.  Our legislation would require the insurer to notify our clients when a check is being withheld and give them the reason it is not payable so the client can work on correcting the issue.

Another problem workers run into is having the insurer audit their claim and declare that benefits were overpaid.  This often happens late in the claim as the permanent impairment benefits are being calculated.  Much to the worker’s surprise, the overpayment is then subtracted from the other compensation that is due.  If prior work restrictions were missing for a period, or deficient for some other reason, the worker only has 14 days to get them altered.  Our legislation would place limits on the amount of overpayment that can accrue, and would lift the restrictions on backdated work restrictions.

Our final, most important, but most difficult legislation would provide a presumption that public facing essential workers who contract COVID contracted it on the job for purposes of workers’ compensation benefits.  For months, we have been pushing for this legislation to be enacted on an emergency basis, to no avail.  We continue to believe that our essential workers should be able to go to work with the assurance that benefits will be provided if they contract COVID while providing essential services.