By Russ Reed

The Oregon Workers' Compensation Board received 11,074 requests for hearing in 2001, 3.9 percent more than in 2000. This count includes 939 stipulations received without a prior hearing request. The worker requested the hearing in 87.5 percent of the cases (excludes "received stipulations").

In 2001 there were 10,269 cases closed, 6.1 percent fewer than during the previous year and the fewest since 1979.

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 and cases closed

There were 2,212 cases closed by O&O, 21.6 percent of all cases (the second-lowest percentage on record). Stipulations closed 5,210 cases (51.0 percent), while dismissals and withdrawals closed 2,798 cases (27.4 percent).

SAIF was the insurer in 32.7 percent of the cases, the highest percentage since 1997.

Figure 2 depicts the numbers of issues resolved at hearings. Claim denial was the most frequent issue (as it's been every year since 1988), with 39.7 percent of all cases. Partial denial was a close second, with a record-high 38.7 percent. Aggravation was involved in a record-low 4.5 percent of cases.

Figure 2. Hearing issues decided, 2001

Permanent disability
Cases dealing with permanent disability dropped to a count of 456, 6.1 percent of all cases (both record-low values). Hearings orders granted just one permanent total disability award (by stipulation) and awarded a net $87.9 thousand in permanent partial disability, less than half of 2000's record-low total. See Figures 3 and 4. There was one PTD rescission.

Figure 3. Net hearing PPD awards

Figure 4. Hearing PTD grants

The percentage of cases granting an increase in disability was 31.4 percent, up from 2000's record-low 28.8 percent. The average PPD increases were 12.7 scheduled degrees, 26.3 unscheduled degrees, and 19.0 degrees combined.

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

Percentages of O&O cases decided in favor by year

The year 2001 rate for permanent disability was the lowest of the past 8 years. The favorable (acceptance) rates for claim denial and aggravation denial were the second 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" (24.6 and 48.2 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 above their record-low 2000 percentages.

Disputed claim settlements
Figure 5 depicts the total value of DCSs, amounts paid to workers as consideration for not contesting a denial. The 3,899 DCS cases constituted 74.8 percent of all stipulations and 38.2 percent of all orders, both record-high percentages. DCSs accounted for 80.5 percent of all hearing denied claims (excludes aggravations). The issue was partial denial in a record-high 51.2 percent. DCSs in 2001 included claimant attorney fees of almost $4.2 million, 49.1 percent of all fees at hearing. The average DCS amount was $5,435, about 4.0 percent less than in 2000.

Figure 5. DCS amounts

Time lags
For all O&O cases, the median time from hearing request to order was 188 days (6.2 months), the same as for 2000. For O&O cases without a postponement, the median request-to-order time was only 138 days (4.5 months). For all order types, the median time was 126 days. (Note: these lag times include time the record was kept open after the hearing.)

Attorney fees
Fees awarded to workers' attorneys totaled about $8.54 million, 6.4 percent less than in 2000 and about the same as in 1999. The average fee was $1,617 (combined out-of-compensation and assessed), slightly less than for 2000. About 51.8 percent of all hearings fees were paid out of worker compensation or DCS consideration.

Mediation activity
In 2001 administrative law judges completed 248 mediations in order to settle disputes without formal litigation. Over 85 percent of these mediations resulted in settlement, and 92 percent of the settlements took the form of a DCS. The average mediation required 13.1 work-hours on the part of the judge. About 36 percent of the mediations were about psychological disease claims and a record-high 51 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.

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This document was originally published in October 2002 .
[Printed form: 440-2106(10/02/IMD)]

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