The number of reported job-related injuries and illnesses in Oklahoma rose sharply in 2015, the second year of the state's implementation of a new administrative system for handling workers' compensation claims.
According to a report from the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Commission, there were 6,331 claims filed by employees for injury or illness last year. That's up from 3,541 claims filed in 2014, when the state switched to the new administrative system after using the Workers' Compensation Court for many years. Claims for injuries or illness before February 1, 2014 are now handled by the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims.
A wide range of injuries and illnesses were reported in the filings, with the majority citing injuries to the back, shoulder and knees. But workers are eligible for compensation for any type of injury or illness that is job-related. This includes:
- Broken bones
- Head injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Surgery because of a work-related injury
- Work-related heart attack
- Work-related hearing loss
- Carpel tunnel syndrome
- Re-injuries at work
- Injuries from cumulative trauma
By law, workers in the state are entitled to receive 100 percent of "all necessary and reasonable medical expenses incurred as a result of a job-related accident." Medical expenses can include first aid, emergency room services, surgery, hospital care (inpatient or outpatient), doctor's fees and prescriptions.
An employee is also entitled to receive partial compensation for lost wages while he or she is unable to work. The law also has provisions for permanent disability, as well as vocational retraining if an employee is unable to continue performing the same job.
As of 2015, there were an estimated 1,609,700 workers employed in Oklahoma. In general, every worker is covered by the state's workers' compensation system in the event of injury or illness. But there are some exceptions. They include certain agricultural and horticultural workers, federal employees, real estate sales associates and brokers who are paid on commission and independent contractors.
While there is no requirement to have a lawyer when filing a worker's compensation claim, it is a good idea to have one. Workers' compensation cases can be complicated. The correct paperwork needs to be filed and there is a process to be followed. A lawyer can also help you gather evidence that helps prove you were injured in a workplace accident and left unable to work.
Employers can contest workers' compensation claims, and sometimes claims are denied. A lawyer can represent you at hearings and appeals.
There have also been recent legal challenges to the workers' compensation law. A lawyer will be aware of court rulings and how they could affect your claim. And if a third party was responsible for the accident that caused your injury, a lawyer can help you take action to recover damages.
The lawyers at Lawter & Associates have filed thousands of Oklahoma workers' compensation claims on behalf of people injured on the job. You can put your trust in a law firm with more than 40 years of experience. Contact us and schedule an appointment today.