oklahoma workers comp

Oklahoma workers’ compensation is a program that provides medical benefits and wage replacement to employees who suffer an injury or illness while working. Families of an employee killed during an employment-related incident may also receive Oklahoma workers’ comp benefits. 

In this article, we’ll provide an overview of Oklahoma workers’ comp laws, benefits you can receive, types of injuries covered, and settlement calculations.  

What Is Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation?

Workers’ compensation is a way to be compensated for an employment-related injury or illness without having to file a lawsuit in court against an employer.

An employer purchases workers’ compensation insurance from a provider, and when an employee is injured, he or she is paid through the insurance carrier. The employee receives benefits by agreeing not to take legal action against the employer. 

Both federal and state agencies offer workers’ compensation programs. Federal workers’ compensation covers only federal employees, coal mine workers, and longshoremen through the U.S. Department of Labor.

All other types of employees must go through the state in which they work to receive benefits. 

Workers’ comp in Oklahoma is overseen by the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission (OWCC). 

How Does Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Work?

When an employee sustains an injury or illness while working, he or she must notify the employer as soon as possible. The employer then reports the injury to its’ workers’ compensation insurance provider.

Once the employer, or employer’s insurance carrier, selects a doctor, the injured employee seeks medical care from that doctor. Payments and compensation are largely based around the doctor’s evaluation and treatment.

There is no requirement to prove the employer was negligent or liable for an employee to receive compensation. In other words, it is a no-fault system, meaning fault is irrelevant to the employee’s eligibility for benefits.

OWCC Claims Process

Often, the employer, through the workers’ compensation insurance carrier, provides the necessary medical care and benefits to the employee. However, in the event there is a dispute, the employee can file a claim with the OWCC. 

After the initial claim, the employee may request an opportunity to be heard in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ). If granted, all parties will gather evidence, present it in front of the ALJ, and obtain an order.

Having an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to walk you through the claims process and represent you in front of the ALJ can be very beneficial. 

Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Laws 

The Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act (AWCA) is the governing body of law for work-related injuries occurring on or after February 1, 2014, in Oklahoma. 

Rights and Responsibilities of Employees 

Although workers’ comp payments are available, employees must take certain steps to secure their benefits. 

Eligible employees

Almost every Oklahoma employee is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits under AWCA if injured on the job. However, he following types of employees are exempt from workers’ comp in Oklahoma: 

  • Agricultural or horticultural workers whose employer has an annual payroll of less than $100,000;
  • Federal employees,
  • Independent contractors,
  • Sole proprietors, and
  • Employees of small family businesses.

Keep in mind that there are additional types of exempt employees. Visit the OWCC for more information.

Right to medical treatment

The employer must provide reasonable and necessary treatment within five days of receiving notice of your work-related injury or illness. The employer or the workers’ compensation insurance carrier may select the medical care provider.

If your employer fails to provide proper medical treatment, you have the right to choose your own physician at the employer’s expense.

Reporting responsibilities  

The employee must report the injury to the employer within 30 days of the incident. Failure to report within the timeframe could cause the employee to lose the right to compensation.

An employee’s benefits could also be jeopardized if he or she does not follow the doctor’s orders and treatment plan.

Types of Injuries Covered

Oklahoma workers’ comp does not cover every injury that occurs on the job. The following are some examples of injuries that your employer may not provide benefits for:

  • Injuries sustained while in a parking lot or other area adjacent to the employer’s place of business;
  • Injuries caused by pre-existing conditions;
  • Injuries incurred while under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
  • Injuries sustained during social or recreational activities;
  • Mental injuries, unless they were caused by a corresponding physical injury; and
  • Injuries endured while on a work break, unless the injury happens inside the employer’s facility.

There are additional limitations and exceptions beyond this list.

Benefits Available Under Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation

There are a number of benefits an employee may receive through workers’ comp. Oklahoma workers’ compensation provides the following benefits to injured workers:

  • Payments for lost wages;
  • Costs of medical care related to the injury or illness;
  • Compensation for permanent disabilities, within the legal limits;
  • Death benefits for family members of workers who died from a work-related injury; and
  • Vocational retraining for employees who cannot return to their previous occupation.

The types and amounts of benefits an employee will receive depends on the severity of the injury and how it impacts the employee’s ability to continue working.

Retaliation and Discrimination by an Employer

Under the AWCA, an employer cannot terminate an employee while on temporary disability simply because the employee is absent from work or because the employer does not want to pay the benefits.

Once the temporary disability time expires, the employer can discharge the employee if their position is no longer available or if a physician determines that the employee cannot perform his or her job.

The AWCA also prohibits an employer from retaliating or discriminating against an employee solely because he or she does any of the following:

  • Files a claim under AWCA;
  • Seeks legal representation from a lawyer for a claim made under AWCA;
  • Initiates, or causes someone else to initiate, a claim under AWCA; or
  • Testifies in a proceeding under AWCA.

If you believe your employer has retaliated or discriminated against you, you have the right to be heard by the OWCC. 

Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Settlements

Most workers’ compensation claims result in a settlement. The amounts are paid either as a lump sum payment or a structured settlement payment plan. While the OWCC does not provide an Oklahoma workers’ comp settlement calculator, settlement amounts are based on the following factors:

  • Medical expenses,
  • Future medical costs,
  • Lost wages, and
  • Specific losses, such as loss of sight.

Since each case is unique, it’s important to consult with a workers’ compensation lawyer to get an idea of your potential settlement amount. 

Contact a Skilled Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today

For more information about Oklahoma workers’ comp, the OWCC claims process, employer retaliation, or any other workers’ compensation matter, call 855-520-8801 or contact us online to speak to one of our experienced attorneys.

Author Photo

Wesley Cottrell

Wes Cottrell earned his B.A. from Pittsburg State University in 1981 and his J.D. from the Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas in 1985. He was admitted to practice law in Kansas in 1986, in Missouri in 1987, in Arkansas in 1989, and Oklahoma in 1993. He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.

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