During this session, the Oklahoma Legislature has been flooded with more than 30 proposed workers’ compensation bills, many aimed at reducing employers’ obligations under the workers’ compensation statute. The overarching intent of the laws from the start has been to compensate workers for work-related injuries without focusing on who was at fault.
Many of these proposed workers comp bills would usher in dramatic changes to the workers’ compensation system. For example, some bills call for the creation of a three-member commission appointed by the governor to replace the Workers’ Compensation Court. Another would allow employers who meet certain qualifications to opt out of state workers’ compensation in favor of their own benefit plans. Yet another proposes a cap on the length of time an employer must pay permanent partial disability payments and exempts employers when an injured worker did not use a provided safety device.
The application of relevant workers’ compensation laws is also determined by the courts, since they interpret and apply enacted statutes. In City of Norman v. Mark Helm, the court ruled that despite testimony regarding physical changes to the brain as a result of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the condition is still considered a mental injury. It is therefore not a compensable injury under the Oklahoma workers’ compensation statute — a worker who suffers a mental injury without proving it was accompanied by a physical injury is ineligible for workers’ compensation.
Any of these legal changes may affect the way your workers’ compensation claim is handled. If you have been injured on the job and your workers’ comp benefit changes, contact a knowledgeable Oklahoma workers’ compensation attorney to protect your rights.