Questions About Oklahoma Workers Compensation Law

Image of question marksMost of my clients (and anyone who is injured at work) have a lot of questions about how the Oklahoma Workers Compensation system works. I’ve put together a nice list of basic questions, along with my answers. Click on a question to navigate to the answer.

Questions About Oklahoma Workers Compensation Law

  1. What is workers’ compensation?
  2. Am I covered by workers’ compensation?
  3. I don’t believe my employer has the workers’ compensation coverage. What happens then?
  4. Do you have to report an accident within a certain period of time?
  5. I have worked for a company for many years and am disabled. There is no real accident that I can pinpoint. Would I be covered?
  6. How do I select a physician?
  7. How much money do I get paid while I am off work?
  8. How long can I receive weekly checks?
  9. Can I work and also get weekly benefits?
  10. Do I have a right to a settlement?
  11. What if I cannot return to my former job?
  12. What if I cannot return to any type of work?
  13. What if an employee is killed on the job?
  14. How long do I have to file a claim with the workers’ compensation court?
  15. Can I also obtain Social Security benefits?
  16. How am I able to complete my claim?
  17. Do I need an attorney and how much will it cost?
  18. How Can I Get the Answer to a Question Not Listed Here?


What is workers’ compensation?

It is an insurance that is purchased by employers for the protection of their employees. In exchange, the employer is protected by the workers’ compensation laws and cannot be sued in District Court. The benefits provided are for medical care, time off from work, job retraining and permanent disability.”


Am I covered by workers’ compensation?

To be covered by the insurance, you must have been injured in Oklahoma or hired in Oklahoma. If these do not apply, then you might be covered under another state’s benefits.


I don’t believe my employer has the workers’ compensation coverage. What happens then?

If your employer is uninsured you have a right to file suit in District Court without the limitations of the workers’ compensation laws. You may also choose to pursue your rights in workers’ compensation court, but you cannot do both. In either situation, your employer would be obligated to personally pay for any damages rather than insurance proceeds.


Do you have to report an accident within a certain period of time?

The real answer to this question is that you should report it as soon as practical. There are time frames in the Code that state you will have bigger hurdles to overcome if you wait more than 30 days to report the injury. However, a person has 2 years from the date of the accident to formally file a claim with the court.


I have worked for a company for many years and am disabled. There is no real accident that I can pinpoint. Would I be covered?

You would be covered under what is called a “cumulative trauma” injury. This means that the repetitive nature of your work over the years has caused the injury. You have all the same benefits available as a person injured in a single incident. You must report this injury as the last date you were exposed to the condition (i.e., the last date you were working) or within 90 days after you separate from employment with the employer. After 90 days there are burdens of proof that you must overcome, but you still have 2 years to formally file on this kind of claim too.


How do I select a physician?

Your employer has a right to choose your treating physician. A lot of times your employer will have an agreement with a local minor emergency clinic. If you are dissatisfied with the physician picked by your employer, there is a process you can get a change of physician through the court. The employer is obligated to pay for all reasonable and necessary medical care. Any dispute with the medical provider is not a concern of the employee. All disputes must be resolved by the employer and medical provider through the court


How much money do I get paid while I am off work?

You are eligible for pay once you have been off work for 7 days. You are paid 70% of your average weekly wage up to a maximum amount that is determined by the date you are injured. The present maximum amount is $735.00 per week. This benefit is called Temporary Disability.


How long can I receive weekly checks?

The law states that you can receive checks for up to 156 weeks if you qualify. However, “soft tissue” injuries may be limited to 8 weeks of checks. There are different ways of determining how long you receive checks depending on whether you have had surgery.


Can I work and also get weekly benefits?

No, you cannot get workers’ compensation and work. The same is true about receiving unemployment benefits.


Do I have a right to a settlement?

Under workers’ compensation, you have a right to receive money for any permanent disability that you are left with as a result of the injury. This is called permanent partial disability. The amount of money depends on the body part that is injured and the amount of disability determined.


What if I cannot return to my former job?

You would most likely have the right to Vocational Rehabilitation (job retraining) at the expense of the company.


What if I cannot return to any type of work?

Under this scenario you would be entitled to Permanent Total Disability benefits. You would receive the same weekly check that you got while you were under medical care for up to 15 years or until you reach maximum social security retirement benefits, whichever is longer.


What if an employee is killed on the job?

The surviving spouse as well as dependent children is entitled to lump sum benefits and possibly weekly benefits. If the spouse remarries, the benefits would cease subject to a 2-year lump sum payout. Child benefits continue until the age of 18 unless enrolled as a full-time student, which could continue through age 23.


How long do I have to file a claim with the workers’ compensation court?

There is a 2-year statute of limitation.


Can I also obtain Social Security benefits?

This is a very complicated process, but you can receive both. However, Social Security will have an offset to a portion of the proceeds of workers’ compensation.


How am I able to complete my claim?

You are able to either negotiate a settlement with the employer, or you have an absolute right to trial. If you settle, then your case is closed forever. You would have a right to a new claim if you reinjure yourself, even the same body part. If you go to court, you have a right to reopen your present claim for benefits up to 3 years.


Do I need an attorney and how much will it cost?

There is an interesting split in workers’ compensation between employee and employer. An employee does not need an attorney in workers’ compensation but the employer does. In other words, if you proceed on your own, not only will you be battling an insurance professional, but also an attorney specialized in the practice.

The cost to hire an attorney is set by law and is one of the cheapest fees in the legal industry. An attorney is entitled to 10% of the weekly benefits (Temporary Disability Benefits) received and 20% of the permanent disability benefits.


Have a question about an Oklahoma workers compensation claim or need help with a case? Contact attorney Scott L. Tully by email (tullylawfirm@gmail.com) or by phone at (918) 872-8800.

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