Though he’s happy and hopeful about the long-awaited reform of Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system, Mike O’Keefe, owner of an Oklahoma City-based nurse staffing business, isn’t sure about the choices he’ll make when the new laws take effect Feb. 1.
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Workers’ comp reform highlights
•The workers’ compensation commission must notify employers within 10 days of a claim being filed. If contested by the employer, 60 days are allowed for discovery and medical evaluation. The parties are given 10 days notice for hearing.
•Temporary total disability (TTD) is limited at 70 percent of employee average weekly wage, not to exceed 70 percent of state average weekly wage for 104 weeks. If an employee has a temporary partial disability (TPD) and is able to perform alternate work offered and the wage is less, the employee is paid 70 percent of the difference for up to 52 weeks. If the employee refuses alternate work, no benefits are paid.
•Permanent partial disability (PPD) can’t exceed a rating of 100 percent of any body part or the body as a whole. The employee is paid 70 percent of weekly wage, not to exceed $323 per week for a maximum of 350 weeks.
•TTD generally can’t exceed eight weeks for nonsurgical soft tissue injuries. Claimants can’t draw TTD if they are collecting unemployment benefits, unless TTD exceeds employment benefits. Workers’ comp benefits are reduced dollar for dollar for employer-paid benefits received under group disability or accident policies.
•Attorney fees for a contested claim generally may not exceed 10 percent of a TTD or TPD compensation, or 20 percent of PPD, permanent total disability (PTD) or death compensation. If the employer makes a written offer to settle PPD, PTD or death compensation, and the offer is rejected, the fee is capped at 30 percent of the difference between the amount of any award and the settlement offer. Under an optional ERISA-governed health plan, fees may be awarded at the discretion of the court or commission.