June 9, 2020 | Workers' Compensation
You may receive benefits under Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation laws for a workplace injury. Even though filing a workers’ comp claim and receiving benefits should be straightforward, things can go wrong. When things go wrong in your workers’ comp claim, it can be helpful to talk to an attorney.
It is also helpful to know some of the basic facts about workers’ compensation in Oklahoma. Ten facts that every injured worker needs to know about workers’ comp benefits are:
1. You Need to Report Your Injury Immediately
If you are injured at work, you should report the injury to your supervisor or manager immediately. You have thirty days to report a workplace injury to your employer, or you could lose your right to workers’ comp benefits. Workers who sustain a “repeated” trauma or occupational disease, the employee has 90 days from the employee’s separation from the company to report a claim.
2. Workers’ Compensation is a No-Fault System
You are not required to prove that your employer was negligent to receive workers’ compensation benefits. The system is a no-fault system. To receive benefits, you only need to show that the injury occurred during the ordinary course of your duties.
3. Workers’ Compensation Covers Most Workers
Most employers in Oklahoma are required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance to cover their employees. There are some exceptions, such as an employer who has five or fewer employees who are all related by marriage or blood to the employer.
The Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Act exempts some employees from workers’ compensation coverage, including but not limited to:
- Independent contractors
- Certain agricultural workers
- Licensed real estate brokers paid by commission
- Employees of a tax-exempt youth sports league
- Volunteers who do not receive wages for services
- Employees covered by federal law for work-related injuries
- Certain employees providing services administered by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services
If you are unsure whether workers’ compensation insurance covers you for a work-related injury, you can contact the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission or a workers’ compensation lawyer.
4. You May Be Entitled to Income Benefits
If you are unable to work because of a work injury, you may be entitled to receive income benefits. However, income benefits do not compensate you for the full amount of lost wages. The benefits are based on 70 percent of your average weekly wage with caps based on the state’s average weekly wage.
5. The Workers’ Compensation Laws Protect Employers from Lawsuits
In most cases, an employee injured on the job cannot sue an employer for damages. The workers’ compensation laws prohibit lawsuits by employees, except in very specific circumstances. You may have the right to sue an employer if the injury was intentional or the employer was grossly negligent.
6. You Might Have a Third-Party Claim
Even though you cannot sue an employer, workers’ compensation laws do not prevent you from suing a third party. If another party contributed to the cause of your injury, you might be able to sue that party for damages, including full loss of income, pain, and suffering.
For example, you could have a product liability claim against a manufacturer if a product is defective and that defect causes your workplace injury. You may have a negligence claim if a sub-contractor caused your injury or if a driver caused a car accident while you were on the job.
7. You Can Get a Second Medical Opinion
Your employer has the right to choose the doctor to provide treatment for a workplace injury or illness. An employee can choose a medical provider if an employer does not choose a doctor, fails to provide reasonable medical care, or in an emergency.
However, you have the right to obtain a second medical opinion, but you are responsible for the payment of the medical bills for that opinion. In some cases, you may have the right to change doctors. You must follow the procedure for changing doctors, and the change is typically limited to a one-time change.
8. You Might be Entitled to Additional Workers’ Comp Benefits
In addition to medical treatments and temporary loss of income benefits, you might receive additional workers’ compensation benefits. Oklahoma’s workers’ comp laws provide compensation for permanent disability, vocational rehabilitation, continuing medical maintenance, and death benefits.
9. Laws Protect Against Employer Retaliation
Employers are prohibited from retaliating against an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Retaliation may include terminating employment, demotions, decreasing income, and other adverse actions without just cause. A worker subjected to employer retaliation for a workplace injury can take legal action against the employer.
10. You Have the Right to Consult With an Attorney
When you are injured at work, you have the right to legal counsel. You may contact a workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss your claim. An attorney explains your legal rights, reviews the steps you need to take to file a claim, and assist in appealing an adverse decision in your workers’ compensation case.