The Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled that several parts of the 2013 workers' compensation law are unconstitutional. After years of scrutiny, a total of 38 provisions were found to be unethical, wrong, or impossible. Although the original law still stands these parts have not only violated state constitution but have failing injured workers in Oklahoma.
The law was originally created to reduce the cost of workers' compensation for employers and in turn create better healthcare for the injured workers. The true results were analyzed by theNational Academy of Social Insurance, a non-profit organization. The study showed that total workers' compensation benefits paid per $100 of covered wages dropped by 52 cents from 2010 to 2014. Employer costs per $100 of covered dropped by only 21 cents. Now Oklahoma has been ranked as one of the worst in the country for workers' compensation benefits paid to employees.
WHAT WILL THE CHANGES MEAN FOR EMPLOYEES?
Earlier this year some provisions of the 2013 law were shot down. This included employees who could not get workers' compensation benefits for a cumulative injury if they had been working at the establishment for less than 6 months. The biggest change for workers will be the fact that employers can no longer opt-out of the state workers' compensation system.
The old law established in 2013 gave employers the option of opting out of the state system to write their own workers' compensation programs for injured workers. This allowed employers to set terms for what injuries were covered, which doctor employees could see, how they were compensated, etc. This meant that employers could single out specific injured workers.
Changes in the state-run workers' compensation program were prompted from ProPublica/NPR news series which featured injured workers who had fallen into poverty due to their injuries. The injured workers who were featured lost their homes were denied surgeries, and could not afford prosthetic limbs. After the news series was heard around the country many states have been looking harder at their workers' compensation programs. Laws are being revised not only in Oklahoma, but Florida and Texas.
Many injured workers in Oklahoma feel cheated out of benefits that they deserved after the old law went into effect. People run out of benefits and cannot get the healthcare they need or provide for their families. Now several companies will have to rush to comply with the new provisions.
In between shifting laws the workers' compensation claim process can be confusing. Anyone who has been injured on the job should contact an attorney who is experienced in workers' compensation. Whether you have not started the claim, if you have been offered an insufficient claim, or if your claim was denied, an attorney can help you understand the changing laws and get you the claim you deserve.