Three years ago, on May 6, 2013, Governor Mary Fallin signed Senate Bill 1062, which would revamp Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system. The bill was backed by Republican lawmakers, as well as Oklahoma’s top insurance regulator and trade groups, despite fierce opposition by Democrats. The bill was created to reduce the cost of workers’ compensation for businesses, changing the once court-based structure that is an administrative system.
A Positive Outlook for the Economy
The reform of workers’ compensation in Oklahoma back in 2013 was an effort to reduce the state’s high average costs of workers’ compensation benefits, which was one of the highest in the country, at a rate of $830 per employee. Lawmakers believed that these rates enormously impacted the state of Oklahoma’s economy and limited the growth of local and small businesses. The expectation for the bill was to positively impact the economy of Oklahoma for the future.
Democrats complained that, although Senate Bill 1062 would save businesses money and free up private sector resources, injured workers would ultimately pay the price. The bill proposed to cut benefits by an estimated $120 million. However, Governor Fallin stated that the revamping of workers’ compensation would “ensure that injured workers are treated fairly and given the medical care needed to return to work.”
Another Blow to Worker’s Compensation
Just recently, the Oklahoma Supreme Court found a provision of the Oklahoma Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act unconstitutional, dealing yet another blow to the workers’ compensation revamp. In Maxwell v. Sprint PCS, (Case Number: 113898), the Supreme Court ruled that, under the Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act, AMA Guides exempt scheduled members (body parts, including arms, legs, toes, fingers), meaning that the provision regarding permanent partial disability deferral was “an unconstitutional violation of due process.”
Permanent Partial Disability Linked to Reduction of Earnings?
Additionally, the issue of permanent partial disability benefits and their connection to reduction in earnings is at hand in the courts of Oklahoma. Prior to the changes in Oklahoma workers’ compensation in the past few years, there was no connection between disability payments and reduction of earnings. Maxwell v. Sprint PCS, (Case Number: 113898), as well as other similar cases, are forcing the courts to make a decision on this matter.
Oklahoma workers’ compensation was confusing before Senate Bill 1062 was signed into law, and now seems even more befuddling. If you are planning on filing a workers’ compensation claim, or have been denied by Oklahoma workers’ compensation, contact a skilled Oklahoma workers’ compensation attorney to help you finagle the system and receive the benefits you deserve. Contact or call the Law Office of Robert R. Robles today at 405-232-7980 for a free consultation.