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Articles Posted in Workers Compensation

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Oklahomans who suffer an injury and are subsequently unable to work may find themselves in a situation where they need to seek workers’ compensation benefits. However, they may not know that some employers, per a 2013 state law, were permitted to decide not to take part in the state’s workers’ compensation system and instead set up their own alternative benefits systems. However, in a recent unanimous ruling by the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission, this opt-out law was deemed to be unconstitutional.

The case involved a worker who was injured on the job in 2014. Her employer denied her compensation, claiming that the worker had a pre-existing condition. Although she appealed her employer’s decision, her appeal was denied by her employer. Her attorney successfully argued that the worker would have received compensation for her injury per Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system. Moreover, her attorney successfully argued that her denial of benefits was in fact disparate treatment when compared to other workers who suffered injuries. It is expected that the Commission’s decision will be appealed. If so, the case will go before the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

According to one analysis, such opt-out plans made it simpler for employers to determine not to grant a worker benefits, gave employers a greater deal of say in how the worker would be diagnosed and treated, gave employers more power over the appeals process and led more workers to be forced to settle for a lump-sum payment.

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Residents of Tulsa may associate workplace injuries or illnesses with working with heavy, dangerous machinery; working from heights; working with dangerous chemicals; or in general performing the type of work that puts one’s safety at risk. However, even seemingly mundane work, such as office work or working on an assembly line can cause what is known as a repetitive strain injury.

There are numerous types of injuries that fall under the umbrella term of repetitive strain injury, such as tendinosis, edema and carpal tunnel syndrome. But what they all have in common is that they are associated with work activities that are repetitious, require forceful exertions, involve mechanical compression, expose the worker to vibrations or that require the worker to stay in an unnatural position.

RSIs may present a number of symptoms. For example, the worker’s muscles or joint may feel tender, painful or may be throbbing or tingling. The worker may also experience a loss of strength or sensation in the muscle or joint at issue.

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The Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Code gives covered workers the ability to receive financial help if they are unable to work for an extended period of time due to an injury, as long as the injury is considered to be compensable. However, did you know that not every type of worker in Oklahoma will be eligible to seek workers’ compensation benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Code?

In general, employees in Oklahoma will be covered by the state’s Workers’ Compensation code without having to undergo a waiting period. However, there are some important exceptions to this.

First of all, it is important to understand that in Oklahoma, independent contractors are not considered employees and cannot receive benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Code. In addition, certain types of workers in the agricultural sector will not be covered. If an employer has five or fewer employees that are related to the employer through either blood or marriage, they may not be covered under the Workers’ Compensation Code. If a real estate broker is licensed and is paid via commission, that worker may not be covered. If a worker’s injuries are covered under a federal law, that worker cannot also be covered by the state Workers’ Compensation Code. There are numerous other exceptions based on the type of work performed and for certain business entities as well.

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Industrial work is a profession fraught with dangers. Even if appropriate safety precautions are taken, accidents can still happen. That being said, workers should never be placed in dangerous situations if they can be avoided. Whether it is becoming trapped under objects, falls or accidents involving industrial equipment, industrial workers can be hurt or even killed while on the job.

Recently, an industrial worker in Edmond, Oklahoma, lost his life in a workplace accident. The victim was working in a 20-foot-deep trench when it collapsed. The victim was trapped under the dirt and could not escape. The accident took place around 4:20 p.m.; the victim’s body was recovered approximately two hours after midnight. His exact cause of death is still being examined.

When a worker dies in an industrial accident his or her survivors may be placed in a difficult financial situation. Of course, they are left to make ends meet in the absence of the salary their loved one earned. However, they may also have to cope with other expenses as well. For example, not all victims of workplace accidents are killed instantly. Sometimes they incur medical expenses prior to their death. In addition, once the worker passes on there are funeral and burial expenses to contend with.

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Some professions in Oklahoma are more dangerous than others. For example, construction work can cause serious injuries, whether it is due to falls, a lack of safety equipment or operating dangerous heavy machinery. Unfortunately, sometimes these workplace injuries are fatal. When a family loses a loved one in a workplace accident, the family must not only cope with the emotional trauma that follows a death, but also with the loss of income their loved one provided.

While many in Oklahoma may know that the state’s workers’ compensation system can help those who are injured in workplace accidents, they may not know that the workers’ compensation system can also help surviving spouses and children of those killed in workplace accidents. In Oklahoma, under the workers’ compensation system, a spouse who survives a worker killed on-the-job may be able to seek a lump sum benefit payment. This may also be true of any dependent children the deceased had.

Furthermore, a spouse who survives a worker killed on-the-job along with the worker’s other dependents may be able to seek weekly benefits and may seek compensation for funeral costs. The weekly benefits may be calculated based on the worker’s pay prior to his or her death. If the surviving spouse remarries, he or she may no longer seek benefits, although he or she may still seek a one-time payment that is equal to 24 months worth of compensation. Children’s benefits will cease being paid once the child is 18 years old, although in some cases if the child is still in school they could last until the child is 23 years old.

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Being injured in the workplace can be a difficult experience. Tulsa residents who are thrust into such a situation not only have to deal with the physical injury and the corresponding recovery process, but they may be concerned that they will not be able to afford the sometimes staggering costs of medical treatment. Fortunately, the workers’ compensation system is in place to help Oklahoma residents in such circumstances.

How should a Oklahoman injured at work go about getting medical treatment? After the injury occurs, the individual’s employer will provide all the necessary treatment for the injury to a reasonable extent. Such treatment may include treatment given by a physician or a surgeon. In Oklahoma, the individual’s employer is the one who determines which physician will take care of the individual’s injuries. That being said, if the individual’s employer does not do so within one week of being notified of the injury, the individual can select a physician to treat him or her, which will be paid for by the employer.

What if an injured worker wants to change which physician he or she sees for treatment of his or her injury? Such changes are contingent upon whether the individual has coverage from a certified workplace medical plan. If the worker has coverage through such a plan, he or she can seek a single change of doctors to another one within the plan’s network via a specified process for resolving disputes. If such efforts have been exhausted, the individual can turn to the court to change the doctor he or she sees. If the worker does not have coverage through such a plan, he or she can turn to the court for such a change. However, it is necessary that the individual have received medical care for the injured body part within 180 days before the individual asks the court to allow him or her to change his or her doctor.

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The Tulsa fairgrounds hosts a wide variety of events enjoyed by many Oklahomans. Many fairgoers flock to the popular rides at the fairground, seeking adventure. These rides are kept safe for fairgoers by the efforts of workers who inspect and maintain the rides. Unfortunately, maintenance work on fair rides can be a dangerous activity.

Recently, a maintenance worker at the Tulsa fairgrounds lost his life while on-the-job. The worker and one other individual were performing maintenance work on a fair ride known as the Skyride when the accident occurred. The basket the two workers were in collapsed onto some transformers, leaving the workers dangling in the air from their safety harnesses. Firefighters had to use a ladder truck to rescue the workers. One worker was able to walk away from the accident. Unfortunately, the other worker passed away despite efforts to save him and being rushed to the hospital. The surviving worker was also hospitalized; his condition is being described as “fair.” According to witnesses, the entire incident was very sudden.

No one heads off to work expecting to be involved in a fatal accident. In this case, the workers were taking safety precautions by wearing harnesses. Despite this, one of the workers still lost his life. His family is now left to cope without a loved one. Not only is this a huge personal loss, but it is a huge financial loss as well. The injured worker also needs to regain his health.

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Workplace injuries can happen to just about anyone. Some may think that workplace injuries are only suffered by those who work in dangerous environments such as factories or construction sites, but this is not so. Even office workers could suffer an injury in the workplace that keeps them from being able to work for a period of time.

When this happens, workers in Tulsa, Oklahoma, may want to explore the possibility of seeking workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation is similar to insurance, in that workers have paid into the workers’ compensation system, and the workers’ compensation system then provides workers who have been injured on-the-job with benefits to help offset the costs of medical care and lost wages while the worker is recovering from his or her injury.

However, there are some injuries that are not covered by the workers’ compensation system. First of all, if an injury is self-inflicted, it may not be covered by workers’ compensation. Similarly, if an employee was injured due to voluntary intoxication or fooling around, he or she may not be approved for workers’ compensation benefits. Also, if another person injured the worker for personal, rather than work-related, reasons, that injury may not be covered by workers’ compensation.

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Oklahoma law states that any worker who suffers an injury during the course of employment may be entitled to workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance for employees to financially protect themselves in the event of a workplace injury. There are instances when an injury occurs outside the premises of employment but while an employee is still under the clock. These are often harder to resolve and it is not uncommon for disputes to arise in these situations.

Workers’ compensation disputes are not limited to whether an employee was on shift at the time of the injury, but may also concern the extent of the injury to the worker. In these situations, the matter of proof comes up and lawyers at our firm work with various professionals to ascertain the injuries suffered and the expenses associated with the injuries.

Courts consider evidence by both parties in order to render their decision. The attorneys at Hawkins Law Firm often consult not only with the employee’s colleagues or possible eyewitnesses but also medical experts in order to prove a connection between the nature of employment and the injury caused to the worker along with possible safety measure violations undertaken by the employer.

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Under Oklahoma law, employers in the state must obtain workers’ compensation insurance to pay any financial obligations that arise when workers are injured in the course of their employment. Employers are generally liable for the medical bills of their workers as well as for any lost income because of disabilities resulting from workplace injuries. Fortunately, the automatic requirement for workers’ compensation insurance generally proves beneficial not only for workers but also for their employers themselves who gain some immunity by being insured against further workers’ compensation claims.

In 2009, Senate Bill 306 amended the Oklahoma Municipal Code. The bill mandates that every employer which issues building permits to get a certificate of insurance – showing general liability insurance in the correct amount – from a proper insurer under the rules and guidelines of the Construction Industries Board. Exempt employers must complete all necessary procedures to complete an affidavit that establishes their workers’ compensation exemption as well as necessary fact sheets required by state authorities.

The Oklahoma Department of Labor is responsible for ensuring that all workers’ compensation schemes implemented by employers will be effective when needed. Currently, the Construction Industries Board requires a minimum of $50,000 in insurance for companies to satisfy the law.

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