Understanding Workers’ Compensation Laws in Oklahoma

July 16, 2023
Understanding Workers’ Compensation Laws in Oklahoma

Workers’ compensation laws in Oklahoma exist to protect employees who suffer injuries or illnesses due to their work-related duties. For example, state lawmakers recently passed a bill to include mental health coverage to first responders – such as EMTs and firefighters – through workers’ compensation insurance. 

This compensation system is in place as a form of insurance employers are required to have. This can cover a wide range of scenarios – from injuries caused by machinery at work to illnesses caused by exposure to harmful substances, and as seen above, mental health conditions like PTSD. Unlike other legal situations, workers’ compensation doesn’t require proving fault. An employee doesn’t have to show the employer was negligent to receive benefits. 

The History of Workers’ Compensation in Oklahoma

The concept of workers’ compensation in Oklahoma has evolved over the years to provide better protection for employees. Back in the early 20th century, an injured worker had to take their employer to court, which was a lengthy, expensive, and uncertain process. Recognizing the need for a more efficient system, Oklahoma enacted its first workers’ compensation laws in 1915. This change shifted the responsibility onto employers to provide financial support for employees injured on the job. The law has since been modified several times to meet changing demands and to further refine the compensation process. Significant changes were made in 2013, replacing the existing court-based system with an administrative one to make the process more efficient.

Understanding The Eligibility Criteria for Workers’ Compensation

In Oklahoma, most employees are eligible for workers’ compensation, but there are certain criteria that need to be met. First, the employer must have workers’ compensation insurance. Second, the person filing for compensation must be an employee of the company. Independent contractors, for instance, are typically not covered by workers’ compensation. Third, the injury or illness must be directly related to the employee’s job duties. This can range from physical injuries sustained on the job to health conditions developed over time due to workplace conditions. Notably, injuries sustained while an employee is intoxicated or violating company policy may not be eligible. 

Types of Injuries Covered Under Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation in Oklahoma covers a broad array of injuries and illnesses occurring in the course of employment. This could include sudden accidents like falls, burns, or equipment-related injuries. However, it’s not just about accidents; illnesses developed over time due to exposure to harmful substances at work, known as occupational diseases, are also covered. Repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome from extensive typing, also fall under this coverage. The key factor is the injury or illness must be directly related to the employee’s job duties. However, it’s important to note self-inflicted injuries, injuries sustained while committing a crime, or injuries suffered while an employee is not on the job are typically not covered under workers’ compensation. Understanding the types of injuries covered can help employees recognize their eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits.

Steps to Take Immediately After a Workplace Injury

When a workplace injury occurs in Oklahoma, there are several immediate steps the employee should take. First, the injured party should seek medical attention right away. It’s important to prioritize health and safety above all else. The next step is to report the injury to a supervisor or manager as soon as possible. Oklahoma law mandates an injury must be reported within 30 days, but it’s best to do so immediately. The report should be in writing and detail the incident, the injury sustained, and how it is related to work. Following the report, the employer will typically submit a claim to their workers’ compensation insurance provider. Meanwhile, the employee should maintain all medical records and document any time off work due to the injury. By taking these steps, employees ensure they’re protecting their rights and properly documenting their injury for a workers’ compensation claim.

How to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Oklahoma

Filing a workers’ compensation claim in Oklahoma involves a few key steps. After an injury has occurred and been reported to the employer, the employer is generally responsible for starting the claim process with their insurance provider. However, if an employer doesn’t take action, the employee can file a claim themselves by filling out a Form 3, also known as the Worker’s First Notice of Accidental Injury and Claim for Compensation. This form should detail the injury and how it occurred. Once completed, it should be submitted to the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court of Existing Claims. It’s worth noting time limits for filing claims – typically two years from the date of the injury. 

How to Appeal If Your Claim Is Denied

If a workers’ compensation claim in Oklahoma is denied, the employee has the right to challenge this decision. This process begins with requesting a hearing before an administrative law judge within the Workers’ Compensation Commission. The worker must file a Form 9, also known as a Request for Hearing, within 30 days of the denial. During the hearing, the worker will have the chance to present evidence supporting their claim, such as medical records and witness testimonies. Following the hearing, the judge will make a decision. If the worker is still unsatisfied with the decision, they can appeal it to the Workers’ Compensation Commission. If that fails, they may further appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. 

Understanding Permanent and Temporary Disability in Workers’ Compensation

In Oklahoma, workers’ compensation covers both temporary and permanent disabilities. A temporary disability is one where the worker is unable to perform their job duties for a limited period due to a work-related injury or illness. The employee may receive temporary total disability (TTD) benefits, which are weekly payments to compensate for lost wages during this period. On the other hand, a permanent disability is when the worker’s ability to work is permanently affected by their injury or illness. These can be categorized into two types: permanent partial disability (PPD), where the worker can still perform some work, and permanent total disability (PTD), where the worker is completely unable to work. PPD and PTD benefits provide long-term financial support to help workers deal with the impact of their disabilities. 

Common Misconceptions About Workers’ Compensation Laws in Oklahoma

Workers Compensation

Several misconceptions exist about workers’ compensation laws in Oklahoma. One common myth is that only severe injuries are covered. In reality, workers’ compensation covers a wide range of injuries, from minor to serious, as long as they’re job-related. Another misunderstanding is workers’ compensation only covers accidents. However, it also includes illnesses developed due to the work environment, such as repetitive stress injuries or exposure to harmful substances. Some people believe if they’re at fault for their injury, they won’t be eligible for benefits. But workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, meaning benefits are given regardless of who caused the injury, with a few exceptions such as self-inflicted injuries or those that occurred while committing a crime. Dispelling these myths can help employees better understand their rights under workers’ compensation laws.

If you are dealing with a workers’ compensation case, contact us or call us at 918-359-6600 today for a free consultation

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