State Rep. Mike Christian told a workers’ compensation court judge Wednesday that he suffered an on-the-job injury when he was involved in a traffic accident driving to the state Capitol in February 2009.
“It was kind of quick,” he told Judge Bob Lake Grove of striking a truck that made an illegal U-turn in front of him. “I was kind of knocked goofy.”
Christian, 42, testified for about an hour Wednesday at a comp trial after rejecting a settlement offer from the state’s insurance provider. He was the only witness.
He said he hurt his neck and back in the Feb. 26, 2009, accident and may have to have neck surgery.
The judge will rule later this month whether Christian, a Republican, is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
The key issue is whether Christian was already working on the morning of the accident three miles south of the state Capitol on Central Avenue.
Christian contends he was “on duty” at the time of the accident because he was driving from his “duty station” — his district in south Oklahoma City. His attorney, Richard Bell, gave the judge a list of court rulings dating back decades to support that position.
Christian testified Wednesday he was carpooling with his wife to the Capitol to present a bill to a House transportation committee. He said he was driving when he struck the truck. The other driver fled in the truck and was never located.
Christian testified he is eligible for reimbursement for his mileage for driving from his district to the Capitol but does not take it.
He said he waived reimbursement to save taxpayers about $500 a year.
An attorney hired by the state’s insurance provider, CompSource Oklahoma, suggested he actually waived reimbursement because he did not want to violate constitutional regulations on public travel since he often carpooled with his wife.
“That’s not true,” he told the attorney, Kristi Bynum Russell. “I thought it was the proper thing to do, the American thing to do.”
Christian, a former Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper, was awarded $9,942 in workers’ compensation in 1998 for a permanent partial back injury, court records show.
Christian was hurt on April 2, 1996, when his patrol car was struck from behind during a traffic stop in Tulsa, records show.
In 2001, Christian was awarded $15,000 in workers’ compensation for permanent disabilities from a 1999 turnpike accident and from a 2000 arrest of a suspect, records show.
Christian did not file a workers’ comp claim over the 2009 traffic accident for more than a year. He also had told a doctor in the weeks after the accident that his symptoms from the collision had completely resolved themselves, according to the doctor’s records.
Christian, though, testified problems with his neck from the 2009 accident have become so severe he can no longer mow his lawn and he has difficulty driving.