Two years have passed since Oklahoma enacted the last major change in workers’ compensation law. Only one bill concerning workers’ compensation was filed heading into the 2016 Oklahoma legislative session, but that doesn’t mean another big change won’t happen.
Before the session began February 1, Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman filed Senate Bill 1528 to “clean up” some defects in existing legislation. SB 1528 relates to insurance requirements for subcontractors. It provides for a $1,000 fine for falsifying a required affidavit.
The bill is likely to pass the House of Representatives and Senate without much fanfare. However, the danger is that the bill could be amended to include language making it harder for injured workers to win their cases. We fear amendments would also do away with a significant number of work-related injuries and further cut benefits for the injured worker, even though Oklahoma already has the lowest benefits in the nation.
That bill was written by a working group under the direction of Hobby Lobby, Unit Corporation and the State Chamber. I’m guessing it will mirror an Arkansas bill that makes recovery for cumulative trauma injuries and heart attacks almost impossible, or impossible, to receive in workers’ comp court.
Many permanent partial disability cases are not being tried in the Workers’ Compensation Commission now. There are a couple of reasons.
First, the cases are not being heard because issues involved in them are being heard by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and if we proceeded now the workers would not get his or her money. And, second, several of the judges are ordering mediation to work things out without a trial.
It’s not a great time to be an injured worker in Oklahoma, but as always, we are pushing as hard as we can, within the law, to make sure our clients receive the benefits to which they are entitled.