Salem, OR (WorkersCompensation.com) -- Regular readers of workers' compensation cases, like those that appear on WorkersCompensation.com and WorkCompResearch, know that claims for permanent total disability benefits regularly arise when an worker is injured at work.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that state law around the country has a thing or two to say about PTD, including how it is defined. One of those states is Oregon, in which PTD is defined as follows.

Definition

In Oregon, "permanent total disability" means the loss, including preexisting disability, of use or function of any portion of the body that permanently incapacitates the worker from regularly performing work at a gainful and suitable occupation.

Who has the Burden?

The worker has the burden of proving permanent total disability status and must establish that the worker is willing to seek regular gainful employment and that the worker has made reasonable efforts to obtain such employment. The gainful employment component, as the case example later in the story shows, is an important aspect in the PTD process.

What is 'Gainful Employment'?

According to state guidance, a worker’s adjusted average weekly wage and the federal poverty guidelines that apply to Oregon residents for a family of three are key factors in determining what "gainful occupation" is and whether the worker is or remains permanently and totally disabled. To determine gainful employment for PTD purposes, Oregon's Bulletin 342, which has been recently updated for 2023, governs.

The Math

The PTD benefit is paid at 66 2/3% of the employee's AWW, subject to the maximum and minimums listed above. Benefits are paid monthly. Thus, the formula is: AWW x .6667 = weekly benefit x 4.35 = monthly benefit.

Notable Case

In Lehman v. SAIF Corp., 107 Or. App. 207 (Or. Ct. App. 1991), a worker had been injured on the job in a car wreck and later opened and worked in a women's clothing store. When the insurer requested reexamination of the worker's PTD award, the court ultimately held that the worker would not be entitled to PTD benefits if she was presently able to perform a gainful occupation, even if her physical condition remained essentially unchanged.

For compliance information from Oregon and 52 other U.S. jurisdictions, head to WorkCompResearch


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    About The Author

    • Frank Ferreri

      Frank Ferreri, M.A., J.D. covers workers' compensation legal issues. He has published books, articles, and other material on multiple areas of employment, insurance, and disability law. Frank received his master's degree from the University of South Florida and juris doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

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