Oregon Workers' Compensation Board Defines "Significant Loss of Repetitive Use" For Permanent Partial Disability

Joe Di Bartolomeo
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The Oregon Workers' Compensation Board recently decided a case that had previously decided, but had been sent back to it from the Oregon Court of Appeals. This case involved the meaning of the term "significant loss of repetitive use."

Under the Oregon Workers' Compensation statute, in injured workers entitled to a permanent partial disability benefit if the injury results in a permanent and significant loss of repetitive use of the injured body part. This permanent partial disability rating is often referred to as a "chronic condition" rating.

Permanent Partial Disability is a benefit designed to compensate an injured worker for the permanent loss of work capacity as a result of an on-the-job injury. The benefit is determined through a closing examination. Examination findings are applied to impairment rating standards.

The rating for a"chronic condition" is based on the examining physician's opinion about an injured worker's ability to repetitively as an injured body part.

The Board reevaluated whether this injured worker was entitled to a chronic condition rating. In making the decision, the Board adopted a common dictionary definition of the term "significant," and concluded that a significant loss or repetitive use required a finding that the limitation was "meaningful" or "important."

In this case, the Board concluded that a physician's statement that the injured worker would have difficulty with repetitive squatting, walking long distances and static standing was not enough to represent a meaningful or important limitation in the repetitive use of the injured body part, which in this case, was the hip. The physician modified the injured worker's work schedule, allowing two days of work followed by one day off, but this was not enough to convince the Board that this condition was a significant limitation.

One member of the Board dissented, explaining that he agreed with the adoption of the definition of "significant loss of repetitive use," but did not agree that the Board properly applied its own definition to the facts of the case. He felt that the injured worker's limitations were "meaningful," and would have awarded a chronic condition rating.

One has to wonder about the vocational background of the Board Members and whether they would find such a limitation "meaningful" if they had to work through these issues like the injured worker did.

To learn more about permanent partial disability benefits, check out this article.