Employees in Oklahoma receive the lowest workers’ compensation benefits in the entire United States due to the laws being more restrictive. State law requires employers to provide workers’ compensation insurance for their workers, which provides benefits when someone is injured. This means employees’ individual medical insurance providers do not have to pay medical expenses, and employees do not have to resort to a lawsuit to obtain compensation for expenses and loss of wages. In return, employers do not have to defend against lawsuits over injuries in their workplaces.
Injuries and occupational illnesses that occur in the course and scope of employment are covered under workers’ compensation. Virtually all employees enjoy this benefit, but there are a few notable exceptions: 1) federal employees, 2) licensed real estate agents paid on a commission basis, 3) those employed in Oklahoma to retain social services programs administered by the Department of Human Services, 4) family members in a business with five or fewer employees, all of whom are related by blood or marriage, 5) domestic servants employed in private household with an annual payroll less than $50,000.00, and 6) agricultural employees with an employer having a gross annual payroll less than $100,000.00.
Most all injuries are covered by workers’ compensation, regardless of whether the employer or the employee is at fault. Injuries under certain circumstances may not be covered. Those exceptions are discussed in another blog here.
The state passed a law in 2013 that eroded some of the benefits for employees. Fortunately, though, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission have both come to the defense of workers. The Court voided a provision that said employees who have returned to work could not collect benefits for permanent partial disability, as well as one that would have denied benefits to employees with cumulative injuries during the first six months of employment.
The Commission held in a case that the law’s provision allowing employers to opt out of the state workers’ compensation system in favor of administering their own benefits was flawed. The Commission said that allowing an employer to define injuries that would be compensated created an unacceptable inconsistency between employees who worked for different employers.
When claims for benefits are filed with the Workers’ Compensation Commission, injured workers receive a letter from the Commission advising that they do not need to retain an attorney. From the Commission’s standpoint, this is true and perhaps desirable. For employees, however, not retaining an attorney could substantially limit the benefits received. It is not the Commission’s goal to maximize an injured employee’s benefits. Quite the contrary, its goal is to limit costs to the system.
If you have been injured on the job and have questions about your rights to compensation, please call us today at 918-582-2500, or contact us online for a free consultation with an experienced attorney.