Oregon Workers' Compensation Board Finds Truck Truck Driver That Needs Help After Injury Can Perform Full Job Duties

The Oregon Workers' Compensation Board ruled that a truck driver who requiredextra help with his job duties after returning from an on-the-job injury was not entitled to a permanent partial disability known as "work disability."

When a worker suffers an on-the-job injury, if that worker cannot perform the exact same duties that she was performing prior to the date of injury, the injured workers entitled to a permanent partial disability benefit known as "work disability." In order to qualify for this benefit, the injured worker must have an opinion from her treating physician setting out limitations. This limitations are then compared to the job description for the job held at the date of injury to see if a work disability benefit is appropriate.

Many times, whether a workers entitled to work disability is a fact battle. There may be a disagreement about the actual physical requirements of the job. The treating physician may not have a full understanding of the work duties, and the injured worker's actual limitations.

In this case, the treating physician signed a "full release" for the injured worker, but limited lifting to 20 pounds overhead. The treating physician eventually allow the injured worker to unload cargo weighing up to 50 pounds. As a result, the claim is close, but no work disability was provided.

The injured worker appealed this Notice of Closure with a Request for Reconsideration. In support of the appeal, the injured worker signed an affidavit explaining that he was no longer able to unload his truck. However, the Order was affirmed that hearing.

At the next appeal, the Workers' Compensation Board agreed that the injured worker had been released for his regular work.in doing so, the Board compared the physicians release with the employer-provided job description. The board concluded that the worker could perform the job as described.

However, the treating physician had also stated that the injured worker could not unload his own truck, but the board explained that this reasoning was based on an assumption that the unloading activities would exceed physical limitations.

One Board member filed a "dissent." A dissent is a separate opinion disagreeing with the majority opinion. The dissenting Board Member explained that the injured worker's affidavit was undisputed, which included a statement that the employer had hired other workers to help the injured worker unload his truck.

This injured worker can appeal this decision to the Court of Appeals. However, where factual issues are the subject of appeal, the Court of Appeals will typically not disturb the Board decision. If there is a case that can overcome this strict standard, this may be the one.

Joe Di Bartolomeo
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