Reducing Litigation: Using Disability Guidelines and State Evaluators in Oregon

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October 1, 1991 Related Topics: Litigation and Dispute Resolution

In their search to reduce litigation, policymakers look for models from different states. WCRI has conducted studies of the litigation process in four states—Maryland, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Oregon. The system in place in Oregon in 1989 achieved much lower rates of litigiousness for the resolution of back injury claims with permanent partial disability—the most common source of litigation—than did systems in Maryland and New Jersey. The table below measures litigiousness in the four states—two with high rates of litigiousness and two with much lower rates. The contrast provides useful lessons about system features that encourage or discourage litigation.

The low rates of litigiousness in Oregon and Wisconsin were accomplished by implementing system features that (1) created certainty about what is owed, (2) stimulated prompt payment by employers and insurers, and (3) discouraged the use of partisan experts in favor of treating physicians.

The features that combine to reduce litigation in Oregon include the following:

  • Written guidelines or standards that create greater certainty about payments due
  • The use of state-employed evaluators to translate medical reports into disability ratings
  • Required evaluations by treating physicians, based on the standards
  • Incentives to use treating physicians’ evaluations rather than those of partisan experts

In 1990 the Oregon legislature adopted reforms aimed at further reducing litigation. This study, launched before the reforms, provided insights into how effective the reforms were likely to be. It also provided a baseline for later evaluation of the reforms.

Measures of Litigiousness: Low-back PPD Claims, 1989

Reducing Litigation: Using Disability Guidelines and State Evaluators in Oregon.Dr. Leslie I. Boden, Daniel E. Kern, Dr. John A. Gardner. October 1991. WC–91–3.

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