The Oregon Workers’ Compensation Board received 10,654 requests for hearing in 2000, a 3.9 percent decrease from 1999. This count includes 943 stipulations received without a prior hearing request. The worker requested the hearing in 87.6 percent of the cases (excludes “received stipulations”).

In 2000 there were 10,935 closing orders, a slight 0.8 percent increase over the previous year.

Notes: This report excludes safety cases. The data below, except Figure 1, include only cases involving compensation to the worker, so cases dealing solely with non-complying status or civil penalty are excluded. Discussions of the relative frequency of issues and their dispositions apply to opinion and order and stipulation (includes disputed claim settlement) cases.

Figure 1. Hearing requests & cases closed

There were 2,449 cases involving worker compensation closed by O&O, 22.5 percent of all cases. Stipulations closed 5,555 cases (50.9 percent), while dismissals and withdrawals closed 2,899 cases (26.6 percent).

SAIF was the insurer in 29.6 percent of the cases, their ninth consecutive record-low percentage.

Figure 2 depicts the numbers of issues resolved at hearings. Claim denial was the most frequent issue (as it has been every year since 1988), with 40.7 percent of all cases. The percentage of cases with the issue of partial denial was 36.2 percent, well above 1996’s record-high 34.4 percent. Aggravation was involved in only 5.0 percent of cases, tying a record low.

Figure 2. Hearings issues decided, 2000

Permanent disability
The number of cases dealing with permanent disability dropped to a record-low 600, only 7.5 percent of all cases (also a record). Hearings orders granted three permanent total disability (PTD) awards (the fewest on record) and awarded a net $189 thousand in permanent partial disability (PPD), about 44 percent less than 1999’s record-low total. See Figures 3 and 4. One of the PTD grants was by stipulation. There were no PTD rescissions.

Figure 3.  Net hearings PPD awards ($millions)

Figure 4. Hearings PTD grants

The percentage of cases granting an increase in disability was 28.8 percent, about 12 percentage points below the percentages of the past two years (1998’s 40.3 percent was the previous record low). For these PPD-increase cases, the average increases were 11.6 scheduled degrees, 27.7 unscheduled degrees, and 20.7 degrees combined (the highest since 1991).

Issue dispositions
The percentages of O&O cases decided in favor of the worker were as follows:

Issue dispositions chart

The year 2000 rates for the two disability issues were the second lowest of the past 7 years. The favorable (acceptance) rates for claim denial and aggravation denial were the third lowest and lowest on record, respectively, while that for partial denial was the third highest ever. For the disability issues, the rates reflect dispositions of “increase” (25.7 and 49.4 percent, respectively, for permanent and temporary disability), plus insurer or employer hearing requests when the disability award was affirmed. The favorable rates for premature closure and penalty were the lowest on record at about one third.

Disputed claim settlements
Figure 5 depicts the total value of DCSs, amounts paid to workers as consideration for not contesting a denial. The 4,019 DCS cases constituted 72.3 percent of all stipulations and 36.9 percent of all orders, both record-high percentages. DCSs accounted for 79.2 percent of all hearings denied claims (excludes aggravations). DCSs in 2000 included claimant attorney fees of almost $4.4 million, 48.1 percent of all fees at hearings. The average DCS amount was $5,662, about 7.5 percent greater than in 1999.

Figure 5. DCS amounts ($millions)

Time lags
For all O&O cases, the median time from hearing request to order was 188 days (6.2 months), 18 days longer than for 1999 and the longest since 1987. For O&O cases without a postponement, the median request-to-order time was only 133 days (4.4 months). For all order types, the median time was 128 days. (Note: these lag times include time the record was kept open after the hearing.)

Attorney fees
Fees awarded to workers’ attorneys totaled about $9.1 million, 6.9 percent more than in 1999. The average fee was $1,622 (combined out-of-compensation and assessed), 4.7 percent greater than for 1999. About 51.3 percent of all hearings fees were paid out of worker compensation or DCS consideration.

Mediation activity
In 2000 administrative law judges completed 280 mediations in order to settle disputes without formal litigation. Over 89 percent of these mediations resulted in settlement, and 87 percent of the settlements were in the form of a DCS. The average mediation required 13.5 work-hours on the part of the judge. Over 32 percent of the mediations were about psychological disease claims and about 43 percent included non-workers’ compensation issues.

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If you have questions about the information contained in this document please contact by e-mail or phone: Russell Reed, Research Analyst, Research & Analysis Section, Information Management Division (503) 947-7343.

This document was originally published in May 2002.
[Printed form: 440-2106(05/02/IMD)]

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