New workers comp laws were passed in May 2013. The Oklahoma Legislature passed Senate Bill 1062. This codified the Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act, the Oklahoma Employee Injury Benefit Act, and the new Workers’ Compensation Arbitration Act. It also established the Workers’ Compensation Court of Existing Claims. These new Oklahoma Workers Compensation Laws, which went into effect on February 1, 2014 and which were backed by the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce, contained sweeping changes to the existing judicial system of deciding workers’ compensation claims with the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court. Oklahoma Politicians, like Republican Governor Mary Fallin, tell us that the new law will improve the workers’ compensation system. They also point out that the new work comp laws will reduce premium costs for business owners.
New Workers Comp Laws Make Big Changes:
The new workers comp law was partly necessary. Oklahoma’s previous workers’ compensation system ranked fifth highest in the country in the cost of claims, sixth highest in the cost of premiums, and forty-seventh worst in 2012 workers’ compensation costs. In addition, the Work Loss Data Institute gave the prior system a “D” for overall effectiveness. Politicians say, it was in part to blame for discouraging some new businesses from coming to Oklahoma.
Now all that has changed, and not for the better. The new workers comp laws in Oklahoma are very sweeping. But a few aspects of it are worthy of notation and will harm you rights as a worker:
- The new law creates a administrative system called the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission (OWCC). This is for the filing of claims that result from injuries that occurred on or later than February 1, 2014. Claims based on injuries that occurred prior to the law’s enactment will be heard by the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court of Existing Claims. The laws, time frames, and benefits available to injured workers are different under each system. Clearly, the advice of a competent workers’ compensation lawyer is necessary.
- The new law again sets the temporary total disability (TTD) benefits at 70% of the employee’s average weekly wage, but greatly reduces the maximum disability benefit allowed by 30%. More importantly, the maximum TTD period is greatly reduced from 156 weeks down to 104 weeks.
- Private employers can opt out of the workers’ compensation system. They can offer employees an Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) type system instead. This must provide equivalent benefits to injured workers though. Only employers with a specified financial strength and loss experience will be able to exercise this option.
- Claims for accidental injury or death and cumulative trauma must file within one year of the date of injury or death. The previous system required two years and was much more fair to injured workers. This also should be rolled back as unconstitutional.
- “Diagnostic” services no longer receive coverage by employers. But first aid, medical, surgical, hospital, optometry, podiatric, nursing, medicine, crutches, and other types of apparatus are.
- The new workers comp laws have revised the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Notice that employers must post in one or more conspicuous places at the work site. The notice must advise employees that they receive coverage under the Workers’ Compensation Act. If must further inform that counseling services are available at the new OWCC. A new version containing all the state-required notifications is available on the state web site at www.govdocs.com.
Attorneys That Understand New Workers Comp Laws:
With all the uncertainty surrounding a change in the law, it is more critical than ever that employers and workers retain competent advocates that understand the new workers comp laws in Oklahoma. More than ever before your rights as an injured worker are under attack. Don’t let your work injury put you behind the eight ball when it comes to proper medical treatment. We care about you and will help with your work injury.
Tulsa's Local Workers' Compensation Lawyers
Are you looking for Tulsa attorneys who will fight aggressively for you? Our team of workers' compensation attorneys have the experience needed in Oklahoma law to secure the outcome you deserve.