Scenario: I was hurt at work just before Christmas and I have not been able to work since the accident. My company has sent me to see an orthopedic specialist who says I need neck surgery. I am scared that I may not be able to go back to my job at the warehouse because it requires a lot of overhead lifting.
Oklahoma Workers Compensation Question: What are my rights?
Opinion: Under Oklahoma law, a work injury allows you to recover worker’s compensation benefits from your employer or its worker’s compensation insurer. You do not have to prove fault. Oklahoma has a court-based no-fault worker’s compensation system. However, since it’s a no-fault system, it also provides limited recovery. You cannot receive money damages for lost wages or pain and suffering.
In your case, you can receive the following benefits. First, your employer gets to choose the doctor who treats you unless the employer refuses to do so and then you can seek your own medical treatment. The employer is responsible for all of your reasonable and necessary medical care. If the treating doctor takes you off work due to your injuries, your can receive temporary total disability compensation at a rate of 70% of your average weekly wage not to exceed a State of Oklahoma worker’s average weekly wage ($683.00 per week beginning on November 1, 2008).
When you complete your medical treatment, the doctor will release you as having reached MMI (Maximum Medical Improvement) and will either send you back to work with or without permanent restrictions or determine that you cannot physically perform the same job. If you restrictions are such that you cannot perform the job you were hired to do, then the doctor will recommend vocational rehabilitation which the employer must provide. If you cannot perform the job you were hired to do and the employer does not offer an alternate job, then the employer is not required to retain you as an employee. On the other hand, an employer cannot fire you for simply asserting a worker’s compensation claim if it is brought in good faith. When the doctor determines that you are MMI, the employer can stop the temporary disability payments.
In addition, if you sustain permanent injury, you can be rated for permanent injury and be awarded a permanent disability at a rate of $342.00 per week based on the percentage of disability to your body as a whole, not to exceed 500 weeks. For example, if you are awarded 25% permanent disability to your body as a result of your back injury, you would receive 125 weeks of compensation at $342.00 or $42,750.00 over and above the other benefits.
Action: Since these cases can be complicated, always hire an attorney to represent you to ensure that your Workers Compensation rights are protected and to make sure your employer is treating you fairly.