Approximately 70% of first-time workers’ comp benefits applications are denied. In Oklahoma, you have the right to file an appeal and continue fighting for benefits. Your appeal will be heard by the Workers’ Compensation Commission and you will need to gather evidence to show you have a valid claim under Oklahoma law since the burden of proof lies with you.
In 2013, the Oklahoma legislature changed the way workers’ comp claims are handled. Among other things, the new law formed the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission and set up an alternative dispute resolution program, which takes three forms:
- Negotiation – The parties meet informally and try to iron out a deal.
- Mediation – A mediator meets with all the parties to come up with an informal resolution, which is not binding unless the parties enter into a settlement agreement.
- Arbitration – A more formal and legally binding form of ADR similar to mediation.
Workers are not required to choose ADR proceedings. In fact, the law states that “mediation shall be voluntary, informal, and nonbinding” for most workers’ comp claims.
If your dispute cannot be resolved, you may request a hearing before the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission. This hearing is similar to a non-jury trial in Oklahoma where both sides present their cases before a judge and question witnesses. Your own attorney will ask you questions about your job, your injury, your medical treatment, and whether you are able to return to work. The insurance company’s attorney will also have the opportunity to question you, and the judge may have questions as well. The types of questions you can anticipate include:
- Background on your employment history with your current employer.
- Specifics about your job duties, including the physical requirements of doing your job.
- Specifics about your job-related injury, such as when and how the injury occurred, the exact nature of your injuries, and whether there were any witnesses to the injury.
- Information on what happened following your injury – e.g., did you report the injury to a supervisor? If so, when? How did you report it (in person, by email, phone or text)?
- Information about your medical treatment, such as when you first sought medical treatment, who you saw to treat your injury, whether your employer sent you to a medical provider or if you chose one yourself, what happened during your visit, what types of treatment were provided, any restrictions the doctor placed on you, whether you were advised to follow up with other medical professionals, whether your injury required surgery, the types of medication you are on for treatment of your injury, etc.
- Questions about how you are recovering from your injury, if you are still experiencing pain, if your ability to function has been affected, if you feel you are capable of returning to your regular job, or if you can handle a light-duty job, etc.
Following your hearing, the judge will make a determination based on the facts of your case and issue a written decision on whether workers’ compensation benefits should be awarded. If you disagree with that decision, you can file an appeal within 10 days of the date of the judge’s order.
Since the appeals process is complex and legal in nature, it would be to your benefit to speak with an experienced Oklahoma workers’ comp attorney to represent you at the hearing or help you negotiate a settlement.
Have you been injured at work? If so, seek legal representation from the attorneys at Armstrong & Vaught, P.L.C. at once. Our attorneys understand how work injuries can impact your life, which is why we will work tirelessly to ensure you are fully compensated through the workers’ compensation system. Call us now at 918-582-2500, toll-free at (800) 722-8880, or contact us online for a free consultation with a skilled attorney.