Firefighters in Oklahoma object to the proposed workers’ compensation bill that calls for extensive reform affecting the state’s current court-based system, largely because the measure terminates benefits for volunteer firefighters. Senate Bill 1062 could mean big changes for all injured workers in Oklahoma though, not just firefighters, and it’s important for workers throughout the state to understand what the legislation could mean for them. If you have been injured in an on-the-job accident in Oklahoma, or if you lost a loved one in a fatal workplace accident, our qualified lawyers at Oklahoma Legal Center can help. Our attorneys have years of experience protecting the rights of injured workers throughout Oklahoma, and will work diligently to help you pursue the compensation you deserve.
Workers’ Comp Benefits Reduced
Oklahoma currently has the sixth highest number of workers’ compensation claims in the United States, but that could all change with the 270-page bill, which ultimately reduces workers’ comp benefits for all injured workers. If passed, the measure would reduce benefits for temporary total disability by 30% and permanent total disability by as much as 42%. Workers’ compensation benefits for amputation injuries would also be cut, as would benefits for widows. Pryor Fire Chief Tim Thompson brought the issue to the attention of the Firefighters Association at their last meeting, saying, “The volunteer firefighter is just what it says; a volunteer. Most do it for nothing and now we’re going to tell them, ‘I sure hope you don’t get hurt because you are on your own, there’s no way to take care of your family, you’re on your own.'”
Reform May Harm Injured Workers
In several parts of Oklahoma that already have a difficult time finding committed volunteer firefighters, opponents of the bill argue that the reform will only make it worse. “Firefighting is extremely dangerous. Workers’ comp is the last we can do for these volunteers,” said Chouteau Fire Chief Ted Key. “They are willing to risk their life, but we can’t provide them with basic protection.” While those against the measure voice concerns that overhauling the workers’ compensation system will place an additional burden on injured workers, those in support of the bill claim that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Joe Vanderhoof, vice president of Sygma, a subsidiary of Sysco Corporation, believes that “This reform will help us continue to attract business to the state, rather than outsourcing to another state.”
Contact Our Experienced Attorneys for Legal Help
The bill, named the Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act, was presented to the Oklahoma Senate in February, and passed with an overwhelming vote of 34 to 12. The legislation is now going through a series of revisions before it will be presented to the House of Representatives for consideration. If you have suffered serious injuries in a workplace accident in Oklahoma, it is imperative that you understand how Senate Bill 1062 could affect your eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits. Consult our reputable workers’ compensation attorneys at Oklahoma Legal Center as soon as possible, to discuss your legal options and seek fair and timely reimbursement for your on-the-job injuries and associated medical expenses.