In Oklahoma, work-related accidents or illnesses are not new to everyone. According to the America’s Health Ranking 2022 report, the state ranks 33 for fatal occupational injuries. Most injured employees work in the trade, transportation, manufacturing, and utility industries.
The Oklahoma Department of Labor’s Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health Division conducts safety investigations to resolve issues involving workers killed in the workplace and high incident and illness rates in the state. Private companies, on the other hand, are supervised by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
In a 2020 report by the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, 80% of workplace illnesses in Oklahoma involve respiratory issues. There were 3,590 women who suffered from injury or illnesses due to exposure to harmful substances and 1,640 men who suffered from overexertion and experienced bodily reactions.
Moreover, according to the Oklahoma Department of Labor, 18,900 work-related injuries happened in the same year. Of these cases, 12,700 individuals were not able to work due to serious injuries, and 6,200 were assigned to other tasks.
The most common workplace injuries in the state include lacerations and burns, broken bones, whiplash, back and neck injuries, and brain and spinal cord damage that may result in memory loss, paralysis, and personality or behavioral changes.
Because of these reported statistics, the state of Oklahoma requires companies or businesses to acquire workers’ compensation insurance to protect their employees in the event they get into an accident that may result in lifelong or temporary disabilities or injuries.
Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Insurance Requirements
In Oklahoma, all employers are required to provide workers’ compensation insurance to their employees. This type of insurance will protect companies and injured employees from out-of-pocket expenses in case of an accident.
Employers need to acquire policies to cover the following:
Lost income for temporary total disability.
Compensation for permanent disability.
Medical care for work-related illnesses or injuries.
Death benefits for the families of deceased workers.
Vocational retraining for disabled workers who cannot return to their jobs.
Generally, all companies in Oklahoma must have workers’ compensation insurance if they have one or more employees. However, depending on factors like income and type of business, some companies are exempt from this requirement. These include agricultural and horticultural employees who have a gross annual income of less than $100,000.
Workers’ compensation insurance is also optional for partnership and limited liability company members and stockholders who own at least 10% of the capital.
Sole proprietors and family businesses with not more than five employees who are all immediate family members are also exempt. As independent contractors, they are not considered employees under Oklahoma law, so they too, are not required to get workers’ compensation insurance.
For Oklahoma companies in the trucking industry, their drivers who do not own or operate their own trucks need workers’ compensation insurance. The state requires employers to invest in their driver’s safety because they undergo extensive training in order to operate a truck.
Where Can Businesses Obtain Workers’ Compensation Insurance in Oklahoma?
Small businesses in the state can purchase workers’ compensation insurance through the state to make sure that they follow Oklahoma’s insurance laws. For larger companies, they can acquire insurance from private or independent carriers. Businesses can also self-insure their workers, in which case they have to apply for an Individual Own Risk Employer Permit with the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission.
What Are the Penalties for Not Having Workers’ Compensation Insurance in Oklahoma?
Since Oklahoma requires employers to provide workers’ compensation insurance, they will face serious penalties if they do not follow the rules and regulations. Businesses may be ordered to pay a fine of up to $1,000 per day.
The state can also close a business if it willfully does not comply with Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation insurance requirements. In addition, a lawsuit may be filed against companies that fail to provide insurance to their employees.
Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Employees who have sustained serious injuries or illnesses at their workplace can avoid out-of-pocket expenses if they have workers’ compensation insurance. Through this protection policy, they are eligible to receive compensation for temporary total and partial disability.
Payments for temporary total disability are equivalent to 70% of the employee’s average weekly income. For temporary partial disability, compensation is also equivalent to 70% of the individual’s two wage rates.
Ill and injured employees are also protected from medical expenses, which include nursing and surgical costs, medicines, crutches, and prosthetic devices. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services can also pay for their basic life, employee, disability, and dental insurance premiums if they are on leave without pay.
In addition, employees who have workers’ compensation insurance can receive retirement credits. During their absence, their employers can pay their Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System contributions.
For family members who have deceased loved ones due to work-related accidents, they can receive death benefits. They must contact the OPERS as soon as possible to report their loved one’s death. They must provide the deceased’s name, date of death, and Social Security number.
However, not all injuries or accidents are covered by workers’ compensation in Oklahoma. The insurance does not cover injuries if they result from recreational or social activities, the employee’s accident is outside the business area, the accident occurred during a work break unless it is authorized by the supervisor, and the employee's injuries are caused by pre-existing conditions.
Mental injuries are only covered if they are due to accidents that result in physical injuries.
How to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Oklahoma
After a workplace accident or injury in Oklahoma, the injured employee is advised to take action and report the case to their employer. Both sides should communicate with each other to make the claim successful. The following sections will help employers and employees navigate the workers’ compensation filing process.
When Is the Deadline for Workers’ Compensation Claims in Oklahoma?
Injured employees in Oklahoma are given only a specific period of time to file workers’ compensation claims. The time frame depends on where they will report the case or file the claim.
Employees must report the accident to their supervisor or employer within 30 days. The report must be in writing. In some instances, employers have specific reporting forms and procedures with which employees must comply.
An injured worker might need to verbally report the accident to their supervisor. It is important to follow the company’s reporting rules because the employer might claim that the worker did not inform them about their cases. Therefore, their benefits might be denied.
If an employee wants to file a workers’ compensation claim with the court, they must do so within two years from the date of the injury or death or the date of payment of any compensation. When it comes to repeat trauma, the two-period period starts on the date the employee last worked.
Plaintiffs who want to file a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission must process their claim within one year. The time frame starts from the date of the injury.
Step-By-Step Guide on Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Oklahoma
Filing for workers' compensation in Oklahoma is no joke at all. Aside from dealing with injuries or the death of a loved one, plaintiffs also need to face the time-consuming process of filing a claim. They need to gather all the needed documents and submit the claim within the given time frame.
Plaintiffs can seek help from an attorney to help them properly file their claim or dispute certain issues along the way. Lawyers can also help them determine whether the claimant is eligible to receive maximum compensation.
The following steps will help injured employees or family members make their workers’ compensation filing process easier:
1. Report the injury
It is important that employers are notified regarding the deaths or injuries of their employees. The injured worker or their family must explain how the accident happened and prove that it is work-related. They or the attorney they are working with need to provide a written record of the incident. They have 30 days to report the incident, or they will not be able to obtain workers’ compensation benefits if the report is made after the given period.
2. File the report with Oklahoma’s Workers’ Compensation Commission
After being informed about the incident, the employee must file a report with Oklahoma’s Workers’ Compensation Commission. Once the organization receives the report of injury, it will contact the victim and send its mediation services and contact information.
3. Ask your employer to provide a Statement of Intent
The employer and insurance company need to provide a statement about whether they accept or deny the employee’s right to compensation. The employee will receive a CC Form-2A within 15 days. The 15-day period can be extended depending on the Commission’s decision. In some cases, the Commission allows employers more time to collect information about the employee’s injuries or illnesses.
If the employer or insurance carrier denies the right to compensation, the victim may contact the Counselor Division for mediation. The voluntary and informal mediation proceeding will help parties understand both sides and reach an agreement.
5. File a claim for compensation
Plaintiffs need to file a claim for compensation for injury, or CC-Form-3, within one year from the date of the injury. Employees who sustained illnesses at their workplaces must file CC-Form-3B, and family members who want to receive death benefits need to file CC-Form-3A.
6. Seek medical attention
It is necessary for injured employees to have themselves checked to determine the type of injuries that they sustained at the workplace. According to the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation of Existing Claims, the employee may choose the treating physician if their employer fails to provide a medical service provider.
The physicians will evaluate their condition and provide treatment recommendations. They will also advise the employee if they can or cannot return to work.
The employee is encouraged to continue their treatment until they have reached maximum medical improvement. They must also keep records of their medical diagnoses to prove that they are eligible for temporary or permanent disability benefits.
7. Request prehearing conference and hearing
The employee can request a prehearing conference or hearing from the Commission Administrative Law Judge to settle disputes, if any. After filing a claim for compensation, they can ask the Counselor Division to help them with their request.
A prehearing conference aims to give the employee and the employer a chance to resolve any disputes. The administrative law judge will help the parties reach an agreement.
However, if both parties do not agree with each other’s conditions, a hearing is necessary. During the hearing, the administrative law judge hears evidence from employees and employers.
The injured employee or their family can present evidence, including medical records and witness testimonies. The written decision from the administrative law judge will be given to the employee and the employer or insurance company within 30 days.
8. File an appeal
If any of the parties do not agree with the administrative law judge’s decision, they can file an appeal. They have 10 days to file an appeal to the full commission from the date of the decision. If they file an appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, they have 20 days from the date of the full commission’s decision.
9. File a settlement
The employee and the employer or insurance company can have a settlement agreement to avoid a formal hearing. This settlement must be approved by the Commission’s administrative law judge.
What Should One Do If a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Oklahoma Is Denied?
If an Oklahoma employee’s workers’ compensation claim is denied, they may seek help from an attorney. Every employee who has denied claims has the right to file an appeal with the Workers’ Compensation Commission. They need to present their case and prove why they are eligible to receive the benefits.
However, employees need to be aware of the reasons why claims are denied. Here are some of the common reasons for a claims denial:
The employer was not notified of the accident or illness immediately.
There was missing or inaccurate information on the workers’ compensation claim.
The employee failed to show that the injury was due to a workplace accident.
The employee was under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the incident happened.
The employer or insurance company believes that the injury or illness was caused by the individual’s pre-existing condition.
The claim did not have enough information regarding the employee’s medical treatment.
The approved medical service provider did not properly review the victim’s injuries.
Employees in Oklahoma who have denied claims still have a chance to recover compensation. They need to review their claim papers to correct any mistakes or if their doctors fail to document or lie about their conditions. They also need to check for administrative errors. If the denial letter does not give specific reasons for the claim denial, the employee can sue the insurance carrier for insurance bad faith.
Legal Resources for Injured Workers in Oklahoma
After determining the complexities of workers’ compensation insurance in Oklahoma and the step-by-step process of filing a claim, injured employees can look for additional information on how to make the filing process as smooth as possible.
The following sections provide some organizations that can help employees locate legal assistance.
Established in 1904, the Oklahoma Bar Association aims to protect the public’s interest by investigating complaints against lawyers. It also provides low-cost or no-cost assistance programs. The activities in the organization are funded through member gifts, grants, membership fees, and other self-generated revenue. Members of the bar take on matters involving criminal, family, bankruptcy, real estate, and employment law.
Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Education Association caters to self-insured entities and their insurance providers. It helps companies advocate for their rights by providing in-person training opportunities. Topics include claims handling, basic safety and loss prevention, litigation strategies, and practices for initial medical care. The organization also offers a certification program for active workers’ compensation professionals or for those who want to be in the industry.
Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group is a national non-profit membership organization serving employees and their families in Oklahoma. It represents individuals suffering from occupational illnesses and workplace injuries. The organization provides legal assistance to victims and helps them obtain medical care and other benefits under the workers’ compensation programs. The group advocates for the rights of injured employees through communication, education, and litigation before the appropriate workers’ compensation commission.
The International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions has been providing legal services to residents in Oklahoma for nearly 100 years. It aims to reduce harm in the workplace and protect employees from injuries and illnesses by educating and empowering the workers’ compensation community in the state. The organization strives to improve, develop, and implement best practices and standards.
The Oklahoma Safety Council is a non-profit member-based organization that offers legal assistance to workers in the state. It aims to promote the adoption of a safe and healthy environment. The organization provides workplace safety resources and consulting services, including noise assessment, air sampling, fit testing, mock OSHA inspections, and AED checkups. These tests are conducted to prevent possible workplace injuries.
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