Further proof of the dysfunction of Oklahoma's workers' compensation system is found in the wide disparity in judgments approved by the court's judges.
The Oklahoman's Randy Ellis reported Sunday that awards granted by the four judges appointed to the workers' comp court by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin have been considerably smaller than those awarded by their predecessors, who were appointed by a Democratic governor. Such trends aren't unusual.
Bob Burke, a longtime workers' comp attorney, pointed out that injury awards fell during the time when Republican Gov. Frank Keating was making appointments to the court, then increased when Democrat Brad Henry got to choose. “It's not a secret. That's just the way it has always been,” Burke said.
It's time for a change. A bill co-authored by Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman would do away with the court-based system and replace it with an administrative system similar to that used in Arkansas, which provides benefits to injured workers but isn't so burdensome to employers.