Edward J. Hill, Attorney at Law
Since 1994 I have accrued substantial experience and success in the following practice areas.
My practice includes claims under the Oregon Workers' Compensation Act. I do not handle Washington State Labor & Industries - "L&I" - claims or federal workers' compensation claims.
Workers' compensation is the legal system that addresses most workplace injuries and illnesses. Under Oregon's Workers' Compensation law, an injured worker is entitled to medical, disability, and other benefits for injuries or diseases caused by work without regard to fault. The law says that workers cannot sue their employers in civil court for negligently caused injuries or diseases; workers can sue in court only for intentionally caused injuries or diseases. However, certain workers injured or made sick by their employers' negligence can sue in civil court. Such court suits require workers to show both that the employer was negligent and that the employer's negligence was a substantial factor in causing their injuries or diseases. In evaluating cases, I consider whether injured workers can bring negligence cases.
If a worker establishes a workers' compensation claim, the worker becomes entitled to certain benefits. These include time loss payments while an injury or illness prevents one from working, medical payments, permanent disability, and vocational and reemployment services. Not all workers with compensable claims receive the same benefits. What benefits get awarded depend on the particular circumstances of each case.
Very short time lines apply under the Oregon Workers' Compensation Act. Most importantly, a claimant must file an accident claim within 90 days of the accident and an occupational disease claim within a year of learning of the disease. A worker must appeal a denial of a claim within 60 days of the date of the denial. A worker also must appeal closure of his or her claim within 60 days. There are exceptions to these deadlines, and no worker should assume that a missed deadline means that a claim is lost.
Given its complexity, Oregon workers' compensation law can be a trap. I deal with the complexity to reach the best result for my clients. I represent all workers' compensation claimants on a contingent basis: My clients do not pay me attorney fees. Litigation of workers' compensation claims typically does involve some out-of-pocket costs, but, fortunately, the costs are small by comparison with those in civil court. I understand the economic realities created by workplace injuries or diseases, and I work with my clients to make sure no one loses benefits the law says rightfully belong to them.
The Social Security Act creates programs to protect the financial needs of individuals with disabilities. There are two main disability programs under the Act: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers both programs. See http://www.ssa.gov/. I represent claimants who seek SSDI and/or SSI benefits.
SSDI is a disability insurance program, but instead of paying insurance premiums, an individual gains coverage through payment of income taxes (FICA). If an employee pays enough taxes to meet certain tests of coverage, the employee is considered "insured." If a claimant then establishes that he or she is disabled, benefits are payable without regard to whether the individual has other economic resources.
By contrast with SSDI, SSI does not require an income history to qualify for benefits. SSI instead is a cash assistance program based on need. Benefits are payable to disabled claimants only if they lack sufficient other economic resources.
A person must meet the Social Security Act's test of "disability" to receive either SSDI or SSI benefits. The Act defines "disability" as the inability to do any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months (or result in death). The SSA applies this test of disability when it reviews applications for benefits. That process begins with a call to one's local SSA office and completion of an initial application. If the SSA denies the initial application, the next step is "reconsideration." If the SSA again denies the application on reconsideration, a claimant has the right to request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) in the SSA's Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA). If the application still gets denied after a hearing, a claimant can seek review by the federal courts. I represent claimants on all stages of the process on a contingent basis. That means that my clients do not pay attorney fees. I recover fees only if I win benefits for my clients.
I handle a variety of personal injury cases. Personal injury is the area of law that addresses injuries or death caused by the negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct of others. Personal injury includes claims for motor vehicle collisions, certain workplace injuries, injuries from hazards on land or building premises, and injuries from faulty products (products liability). My personal injury practice is not limited to these areas. A personal injury case can arise from any injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful conduct of another.
With regard to motor vehicle collisions in particular, Oregon has complex rules governing payment of insurance benefits to injured drivers or passengers. Those rules apply to one's own insurance coverage and to the coverage carried by the party who caused injury. I call an injured person's own insurance "PIP insurance." The term "PIP" stands for "personal injury protection." The responsible party's insurance is "liability insurance." When the responsible party does not have insurance or sufficient insurance, an injured person can bring a claim against her or his own insurance company.
Personal injury cases turn on the precise facts of the accident or wrongdoing involved. Memories of witnesses fade with time, and accident scenes change. For that reason, victims of accidents or wrongdoing can benefit from getting legal representation early on. Representation does involve the cost of contingent fees but often the benefits of representation more than outweigh that cost. Insurance companies recognize this fact. They frequently try to convince injured persons that they do not need attorneys.
Timely representation also can prevent an injured person from losing rights because of the passage of time. Personal injury claims are subject to "statutes of limitation." These are time limits by which one must file a civil suit or other legal action. What time limit applies depends on the particular facts of each matter. Although no injured person should avoid talking to an attorney because she or he thinks too much time has passed, any person injured by the negligence or wrongdoing of another should not delay in seeking legal advice.
I do not charge for an initial consultation regarding a personal injury matter. I handle personal injury cases on a contingent fee basis. That means that my fee is a percentage of the recovery. The client is responsible only for costs. I will discuss fee arrangements during the initial consultation, and I am happy to answer any questions about fees a potential client may have.