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How does Oklahoma's workers' comp system work?

Workers' compensation is an insurance program that Oklahoma employers must participate in so they can pay for the needs of employees who are injured on the job.
by Randy Ellis Published: February 3, 2013

Workers' compensation insurance also pays death benefits to the spouse and dependent children of a worker killed on the job.

It is an employee's responsibility to report an injury to a supervisor. An injury caused by a single event must be reported within 30 days, while repetitive trauma injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome must be reported within 90 days of an employee's leaving a job or the worker risks a loss of benefits.

Once an employee reports an injury, it is the employer's responsibility to promptly select a physician to provide medical treatment. The system allows an employee to challenge the employer's choice of doctor.

Compensation court

The system is designed to be non-adversarial so long as the injured worker and employer agree that the injury occurred on the job and can agree on the doctor, treatment and benefits.

Sometimes disagreements occur, however, and such disputes are currently handled by the state Workers' Compensation Court. There is generally a two-year time limit to file such a claim. When the clock starts ticking can vary with circumstances.

Many injured workers hire attorneys to represent them before the court, while others represent themselves.

Attorneys can charge a maximum of 10 percent of any award for contested temporary disability and 20 percent of any award for permanent disability or for a contested death case. They can also charge expenses in preparing the case for settlement or trial.

by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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