Fraud only one problem with Oklahoma workers' comp system

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: March 7, 2013

But cases that don't involve fraud offer plenty of reason why a change away from our court-based system is needed.

Consider the motorcycle police officer who was found to be 41 percent disabled after an accident on the job in 2004. Six years later he had another accident on the job and was awarded more than 70 percent disability — on top of the previous 41 percent. He remains on the same job today.

Or the worker who fell off a tall ladder and severely injured his back. At the hospital he tested positive for methamphetamine, and he admitted having used meth a few days earlier. In work comp cases, the presumption is that if you test positive for illegal drugs, you were under the influence and thus ineligible for benefits. But in this case the judge asked the man if he thought being under the influence had caused the accident. The man said no, and the judge awarded him more than $200,000.

Then of course there's state Rep. Mike Christian, who received $61,560 after claiming — more than a year after the accident — that he had been hurt on the job while in a car accident during his commute. Such injuries usually don't qualify for workers' comp benefits, but the judge said Christian could qualify under an exception in the law. “I'm sure the judgment speaks for itself,” Christian said at the time.

It certainly spoke to the disaster that is our current workers' compensation system. The Legislature is weighing a proposal this session to implement an administrative system. This may not wind up being the perfect fix but it's certainly an improvement over what we have now.

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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