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 Workers' Compensation in Oklahoma


 

Oklahoma's workers' compensation system is governed by the body of law found in Title 85 of the Oklahoma Statutes. This law provides for medical, indemnity and rehabilitation benefits to injured workers.

Administration

The law is administered by the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court. Although it is part of the judicial branch of government, the Court is both judicial and administrative in nature. Ten judges hear contested cases and approve settlements at both Oklahoma City and Tulsa court locations. A claimant may request a hearing before a judge or may settle his or her claim without a trial. Appeals from a trial judge's ruling may be made to the Court En Banc or to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The Court Administrator organizes, directs and develops all administrative work of the court. Among the Administrator's responsibilities are the regulation of all self-insurance and the application of the Schedule of Medical Fees. The Administrator also has the authority to approve certain settlements.

Coverage

By law, coverage is mandatory for all employers except: domestic or household employees where total payroll is less than $10,000 annually; agricultural or horticultural employees where total payroll is less than $100,000 annually; certain licensed real estate sales persons and brokers; and employees covered under Federal laws.  Additional specific exemptions can be found in Sections 2.2 through 2.7 of Title 85 of the Oklahoma Statutes. Coverage for workers' compensation can be obtained in three ways: by securing coverage from a private carrier licensed to provide workers' compensation coverage in the state of Oklahoma; by securing coverage from CompSource Oklahoma; or by obtaining approval from the Court to self-insure against workers' compensation liability. The attached sheet provides additional information on available options.

Basis for Compensation

An injured worker is entitled to reimbursement for all reasonable and necessary medical treatment resulting from an on-the-job injury. In order for an injured worker to be entitled to temporary benefits, he or she must be unable to work for more than three calendar days. Compensation for permanent disability is based upon the impairment resulting from of an injury and the benefit amounts provided by law. The method for determining permanent disability under Oklahoma's system is two part - initially a physician provides an evaluation of an individual's percent of impairment and then a determination of the individual's disability is made. Technically, "impairment" is a medical assessment of an individual's health and "disability" is a non-medical assessment of an individual's ability to meet personal, social or occupational needs.

Once the percent of disability has been established, benefits are calculated based upon both the state's average weekly wage (SAWW) and the employee's average weekly wage (AWW). The law provides benefits equal to 100% of the employee's AWW up to 70% of the SAWW for temporary total, permanent total and death benefits. For injuries occurring between November 1, 1999 and October 31,2002, maximum weekly benefits are $473.  For permanent partial benefits the cap is set at 50 percent of the SAWW, or $237.  Benefits are referred to in terms of "weeks" or "weeks of compensation" for a particular injury. For example, those injuries that are "scheduled" or listed as part of the law, list a maximum number of weeks (e.g. 208.4 weeks for a hand).

Statistics

Of the benefits awarded by the Court, the majority are for temporary total disability (TTD), permanent total disability (PTD), permanent partial disability (PPD), death, disfigurement, and medical costs.  The Court must approve all settlements for permanent disability and makes awards after trial for various types of benefits, including PPD.  

In 1999, 84,203 on the-job injuries were reported to the Court by employers. Employees filed 19,959 claims for compensation. The Court approved over 15,100 out-of-court settlements and awarded PPD benefits after trial in over 5,500 cases.

Total dollars in approved settlements amounted to $150,383,144.00
Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) awards totaled $53,538,929, down 35 percent from 1995.
Temporary Total Disability (TTD) awards amounted to $1,905,940

Options for Workers' Compensation Insurance Coverage:

Oklahoma law provides employers with three options for obtaining workers' compensation coverage.

1. Secure Coverage From A Private Insurance Carrier Authorized To Do Business In The State Of Oklahoma

Many companies are currently authorized to sell workers' compensation insurance or a workers' compensation insurance equivalent product in the State of Oklahoma. A list of all authorized carriers is available, by request, from:

Oklahoma Insurance Department
Kathie Stepp, Property & Casualty Rates Division
2401 NW 23rd, Suite 28
Oklahoma City, OK 73107
Phone 405-521-3681

The rates charged by private carriers are subject to the regulatory authority of the Oklahoma Property & Casualty Board. The Board approves loss cost rates for licensed insurers. Rate charges are proposed by the National Council for Compensation Insurance (NCCI), based on statistics gathered from the majority of insurance companies in the state. Loss costs approved by the Board serve as a base to which individual companies apply an expense multiplier specific to their firm.

2. Secure Coverage From CompSource Oklahoma or another provider

CompSource Oklahoma was established by the Oklahoma Legislature in 1933 as a separate entity to provide a reliable market for workers' compensation insurance at the lowest possible price. CompSource operates as a self-supporting insurance company selling workers' compensation coverage to Oklahoma businesses either directly or through insurance agents that have signed an agency agreement with CompSource.  Commission is paid to the agent on a sliding scale based on the loss experience of the employer being submitted for coverage.  As an entity of state government, CompSource is not subject to rate approval by the Property and Casualty Board and does not pay premium taxes.  Instead, CompSource's governing Board of Managers establishes the rates.  To obtain a quote for insurance for an individual company contact:

CompSource Oklahoma
Attn: Underwriting Division
P.O. Box 53505
Oklahoma City, OK 73152
Phone 405-232-7663

3. Self-Insure Against Workers' Compensation Liability

Oklahoma law provides that if an employer furnishes satisfactory proof of financial ability to pay compensation, that employer may be approved to carry its own risk without insurance (self-insured). Approval to self-insure is granted by the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court, based on an application that determines whether or not an employer meets the statutory and regulatory criteria. Those criteria, found in Rule 2 of the Rules of the Administrator of the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court, are summarized below:

  • continuously engaged in business for not less than five years;

  • average minimum payroll of not less than $1,000,000 in each of the three preceding years;

  • shareholders' equity of not less than $500,000;

  • not less than 100 employees; and

  • demonstrate financial strength to pay all workers' compensation obligations.

In addition to self-insuring as an individual employer, certain groups of employers may form group self-insurance associations. Information about self-insurance, applicable rules and forms may be obtained by contacting:

Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court
Insurance Department
1915 North Stiles
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
Phone 405-522-8680
www.owcc.state.ok.us

 

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