The Intervening Cause in Minnesota Workers’ Compensation
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The Intervening Cause in Minnesota Workers’ Compensation

When seeking workers’ compensation, an event called an intervening cause can bar you from recovering benefits in Minnesota. Usually an intervening cause happens after the original injury and makes it worse or causes a new injury.

What Is an Intervening Cause?

An intervening cause is an event that happens usually after or close in time to the original injury. It may affect the injured body part, make an injury worse, or cause a new injury. The event interrupts the chain of causation for the injury – while the initial injury may have arisen out of and in the course of someone’s employment, the worsening of the injury or new injury does not. This worsening or new injury is usually not compensable by a workers’ compensation insurance company.

What Are Some Examples of Intervening Causes?

Intervening causes arise in many workers’ compensation cases, and courts have decided that a variety of injuries are not compensable as a result. These include:

  • A roller skating injury on personal time to the same area of the back as an earlier work injury
  • Injuries in a car accident unrelated to work, just after the employee had nearly recovered from a work injury
  • Injuries to the shoulders from slipping on ice and falling off a stool, after shoulder injuries at work

(Gaspers v. Minneapolis Electric Steel Castings, 290 N.W.2d 743 (Minn. 1979); Hendrickson v. Potlatch Corp., 43 W.C.D. 212 (W.C.C.A. 1990); Austin v. Coca-Cola Bottling (W.C.C.A. Aug. 6, 1991).)

In contrast, some incidents that happen after an initial work-related injury are not considered to be intervening causes. Usually these incidents would not have happened but for the original work-related injury. Examples include:

  • An employee injured his back at work, then hurt his knee playing badminton outside work. The cast on his knee made his back injury worse.
  • An employee had an eye condition from work. Due to the condition, he ran into a door jamb at home, requiring surgery on the eye.

Eide v. Whirlpool Seeger Corp., 109 N.W.2d 47 (Minn. 1961); Michlitsch v. Michlitsch Builders, Inc. (W.C.C.A. 2006).

As you can see, the facts in different cases greatly affect availability of benefits. For help seeking workers’ compensation benefits in Minnesota, talk to a lawyer near you.

Need help getting workers’ compensation for your injury? Joe Osterbauer, Esq. and the Osterbauer Law Firm stand up for injured Minnesota workers’ rights. Joe’s 27 years of workers’ compensation experience and his team’s speedy service combine to get clients the results they need. To schedule a free consultation, visit Osterbauer Law Firm online or call Joe’s office at (612) 334-3434.