In this Oregon Workers' Compensation Board case, the Board reviewed and Administrative Law Judge's decision that set aside a denial of a claim for a right shoulder condition.
The injured worker had worked as a "dryer feeder" for 23 years. In the fall of the year 2000, the injured worker experienced bilateral shoulder pain, and an orthopedic surgeon diagnosed bilateral shoulder tendinitis due to repetitive use. The injured worker underwent extensive physical therapy, but still experienced pain on and off.
A physical therapist felt that the injured worker was re-injuring his shoulders at work with overuse, and another physician documented ongoing issues in 2009. The condition improved over time with physical therapy, but the repetitive nature of the job was getting in the way of recovery. Finally, the injured worker filed a claim for an occupational disease to the right shoulder.
The insurance company retained the physician to examine the claimant, who did agree that the work activity was contributing to the shoulder problem, but felt that a 2011 off the job injury was the main cause of the shoulder condition.
An orthopedic surgeon performed surgery, and found a massive and a repairable rotator cuff tear. There was no indication of a recent injury, which ruled out the off the job injury as causing the rotator cuff tear. The orthopedic surgeon then viewed a videotape of the injured worker's work activities, and based on that evidence, felt the rotator cuff tear was a result of the work activity. Another physician who also reviewed the videotape agreed with the orthopedic physician, and said that they 2011 of the job injury was trivial.
The insurance retained physician disagreed, and felt that the physical mechanics of the 2011 injury were consistent with the findings of the ear repairable rotator cuff tear on surgery. At hearing, however, the injured worker explained that after treating for his 2011 off the job injury, he was fully recovered and ready to get back to work.
The Board first explained that the Claimant had to prove that his work activities were the major cause of the right shoulder condition, and that the medical opinions were key in making this claim. The Board considered all of the medical opinions, but also pointed to the fact that Claimant testified that he had recovered well from his off the job injury before returning to work. The Board felt there was no reason to disturb the Judge's finding that the injured worker was credible in testifying about his recovery from the off the job injury at hearing.
Given the injured worker's testimony, the Board felt the treating surgeon's opinion simply made more sense, and found more persuasive. Part of the Board's reasoning was that the treating surgeon actually viewed a videotape of the Claimant's work.
Often times, proving an occupational disease claim involves not only reviewing MRIs and medical findings, but having a basic understanding of the work activity that caused the problem in the first place.
If you have a claim for an occupational disease under the Oregon Workers' Compensation system, and have questions, call us at 503-325-8600. We have extensive experience working with injured workers on these claims. If your claim is denied, we earn a fee only if we prevail at hearing.