The basic purpose of Workers’ Compensation benefits is to provide health care benefits to employees who have suffered an injury or illness as a result of their employment, without the need to file a legal claim in court. Without the Workers’ Compensation system in place, an employee who suffers a personal injury or illness as a result of their work on a job would sue their employer in order to receive compensation for that illness or injury.
However, with the Workers’ Compensation system, the injured employee receives compensation for the work-related injuries in exchange for agreeing not to file a legal action against the employer based on that injury. The employee is not required to prove negligence or liability in order to be compensated for his injuries, which means it is basically a no-fault system. Here are some of important Workers’ Compensation rules that apply in Oklahoma.
Overview of Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Laws
The Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission (OWCC) requires every employer to provide workers’ comp coverage, with the exception of agricultural and horticultural pursuits that have an annual payroll of less than $100,000. Oklahoma does provide some additional exemptions, specifically for sole proprietorships and small family businesses wherein all employees are related by blood or marriage to the employer.
Injured workers must notify their employer of an accident within 30 days. The employer must provide appropriate medical treatment within five days of receiving notice. The employer has the right to choose the doctor or medical provider. You may also be reimbursed for a portion of lost wages for temporary disability (full or partial) and permanent disability (full or partial).
To verify whether an employer has valid coverage in place, you can use the OWCC Oklahoma workers’ comp verification site.
Worker’s Compensation Benefits in Oklahoma
Workers’ Compensation benefits are paid by your employer at no cost to you. Still, it is your responsibility to report all work-related injuries or illnesses to your employer as soon as they occur. Workers’ Compensation insurance benefits pay for all reasonably necessary medical care you receive as a result of a work-related illness or injury.
Remember that either your employer or your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier has the authority to choose which health care provider will provide your medical treatment. Workers’ compensation benefits may also replace a portion of your lost wages if your doctor says you need to be off work for a certain period of time because of a work-related illness or injury.
The Process of Obtaining Medical Care and Other Benefits Through Workers’ Compensation
In order to begin receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits, your employer must first report the injury or illness to its workers’ compensation insurance carrier. This is typically done by submitting a First Report of Injury or Illness. Then you will go see the doctor chosen by your employer or your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier for the necessary treatment.
It is also crucial that you comply with everything your employer requests and be cooperative. If you do not comply there is a chance that you could stop receiving benefits or those benefits could be delayed. Being in full compliance means completing all Workers’ Compensation forms by the deadlines and keeping all of your doctor’s appointments. You also need to obtain approval from the workers’ compensation insurance carrier before receiving treatment. If you are dissatisfied with the doctor they have chosen, you can request that they approve another doctor.
Types of Medical Benefits You May be Eligible to Receive
Workers’ Compensation insurance will usually pay for all reasonably necessary medical care related to your on-the-job injury or illness. This should include visits to an approved health care provider, required surgery, hospital care, physical therapy, prescription drugs, braces, and crutches or other medical supplies, as long as they are ordered by your approved physician.
You should not be responsible for the medical bills as long as the workers’ compensation carrier has approved the health care provider from whom you receive treatment. So, before you seek treatment, be sure you have the necessary approval. If you don’t have approval, you may be held legally responsible for the expenses you incur. As long as your treatment is approved, your health care provider can either bill the insurance carrier directly or you can send the bill to your employer or their carrier.
Payment for Lost Wages Under the Worker’s Compensation System
In cases where you are absent from work because of a work-related injury or illness, you may be entitled to receive cash benefits, often referred to as indemnity benefits. However, the waiting period for these benefits is seven calendar days and will only be awarded at the direction of your approved doctor. Payments for lost wages are meant to help you through the period of time you are disabled from your workplace injury or illness. Your coverage will begin on the eighth day of partial or total disability and you will be compensated for the first seven days only if you are disabled for more than fourteen days.
What is Workers’ Compensation Retaliation in Oklahoma?
The Oklahoma workers’ compensation statute prohibits an employer from discriminating or discharging an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim. To successfully bring a claim, you must prove you were an employee before the injury, you filed a workers’ compensation claim, your employer discharged or discriminated against you, and a causal relationship existed between the filing of the workers’ compensation claim and discharge or discrimination.
Retaliation Often Includes More Than Simply Termination
Unlawful discrimination or retaliation for exercising workers’ compensation rights includes more than just termination. The following kinds of employment actions can also be lawful if it is determined that the employer was motivated by an employee exercising his or her rights:
- Poor performance review
- Failure to promote
- Reduction of wages
- Intimidation in the workplace
- Threats of adverse action
- Negative reassignment, reclassification or transfer
- Unreasonable increase or decrease in job duties
- Unwarranted disciplinary action
Call for a Free Consultation at Our Rogers or Joplin Office
If you have questions regarding worker’s compensation benefits, retaliation or any other workers’ compensation issues in Oklahoma, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation, either online or by calling toll-free at 800-364-8305.