Recent Changes To Workers’ Compensation In Oklahoma
Recently, there were some pretty big changes in the way workers’ compensation is processed and handled in Oklahoma. Christensen Law is here to provide the most important changes regarding these law changes.
Written by: D. Wade Christensen, JD*, J. Clay Christensen, JD**, L. Nazette Zuhdi, JD, LLM***, Adam W. Christensen****, JD, MBA, and S.Sandy Sanbar, MD, PhD, JD*****
On May 24, 2011, Governor Mary Fallin Christensen signed the new and extensively modified Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA), which took effect on November 1, 2011, and directed the administrator of the workers compensation court to reduce the fee schedule by 5 percent.*^ The following summarizes most of the new provisions of the WCA:
- The Court will consist of 10 judges, no more than seven will be assigned to Oklahoma City and no fewer than three will be assigned to Tulsa. The WCA will not apply to certain employees including volunteers; sole proprietors, persons providing services in a medical care or social services program; persons who employ relatives; persons employed by employers who are liable under certain Acts of Congress; persons employed in agriculture who have certain gross annual payrolls; real estate brokers; persons employed by youth sports league; owner-operators, and drive-away owner-operator.
- Injuries that do not occur during the employment relationship or in the course of employment are excluded, as are some injuries which occur from certain willful acts, willful failure to act, drug use, and horseplay.
- The time period a worker can file a claim is shortened from two years to 90 days;
- Public state entities are required to provide workers’ compensation benefits, paid out of their respective funds, to employees and certain elected officials and to insure against liability for workers’ compensation with CompSource Oklahoma.
- Voluntary mediation is available to any party to a claim, and the Court may also order mediation in any case.
- The employer is required to provide an injured employee with medical care within seven days of actual knowledge of an injury, without admission of compensability. The physician selected by the employer will become the treating physician. If the employer fails to do so, or in the case of an emergency, the injured employee may select a physician at the expense of the employer. f there has been a previous contract with a certified workplace medical plan, the employer will select a treating physician from within the network of such plan and the claimant may apply for a change of physician as set out in the plan. Where the employee is not covered by the plan, the employee may be granted one change of treating physician for any affected body part. A maximum of two changes of physician are allowed in a claim.
- A new Workers’ Compensation Medical Fee Schedule will be established in January 2012 with maximum rates that medical providers are permitted to be reimbursed for.
- The Court will create and maintain a list of licensed physicians to serve as independent medical examiners and, at any time, may appoint an independent medical examiner to assist in determining any issue before the Court. After receiving a medical examiners report, the Court is required to submit reasons if it does not follow the opinion of the medical examiner.
- The WCA established the use of nationally recognized treatment guidelines for injured workers. The Court will determine permanent impairment or disability and must be supported by medical testimony. The physician’s opinion of the nature and extent of permanent partial impairment must be based on the “American Medical Association’s Guides to Evaluation of Permanent Impairment.”
- The WCA encouraged early return to work by utilizing rehabilitation. Injured employees will be entitled to physical rehabilitation. Injured employees will be entitled to physical rehabilitation. Injured employees will be entitled to physical rehabilitation services and Vocational Rehabilitation Director to help injured workers return to work. No person will be adjudicated to be permanently and totally disabled, unless first having obtained an evaluation through vocational rehabilitation services, which are limited to 52 weeks and may be extended in certain circumstances.
- And, a formula will be established that limits claims for legal services based on the type of case and disability.
*First Gentleman of Oklahoma; Owner, Christensen and Associates;
**Owner and Managing Director, Christensen Law Group
***Chair, Health Law Section, Christensen Law Group
****Attorney, Health Law Section, Christensen Law Group
*****Of Counsel, Health Law Section, Christensen Law Group Address for all: 210 Park Avenue Suite 700, Oklahoma City, OK 73102.
Additional Resources: http://www.workerscompensationok.com/ and http://www.owcc.state.ok.us/
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