Although a proposed bill would change Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system from court-based to administrative, the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court (OWCC) is currently still responsible for overseeing work injury claims filed by Oklahoma employees. The OWCC is composed of ten judges appointed by the state’s governor to serve a six-year term, and some claim that the political affiliation of the judge assigned to your case can significantly affect the outcome of your claim. For example, many lawyers representing employees in workers’ compensation disputes claim that Republican governors tend to appoint conservative judges who may award injured workers lower amounts in benefits, compared to judges appointed by Democratic governors. Judging by recent statistics regarding workers’ compensation claims filed in Oklahoma in 2012, this claim may actually be true.
Workers’ Compensation Benefit Awards
Last year, Governor Mary Fallin appointed four new judges to the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court to replace four former judges. In the last half of 2012, these new judges granted 25 fewer partial disability awards than their predecessors did in the first half of the year, and the average amount awarded was $27,469, over $5,000 less than the average of $32,561 awarded by the replaced judges. The new judges also rejected more workers’ compensation claims than the former judges: 132 compared to 117.
This disturbing trend is even further illustrated by figures from the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court under former OK governors Frank Keating and Brad Henry. In 2002, all workers’ comp judges were appointed by Republican Governor Keating, and the average amount awarded for permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits that year was just $14,112. In fiscal year 2011, all workers’ compensation judges were appointed by Democratic Governor Brad Henry, and the average PPD award that year was more than double, at $33,680.
Contact Our Workers’ Comp Lawyers Today
Injured workers in Oklahoma face enough of a challenge in pursing the workers’ compensation benefits they are entitled to; the amount they are awarded should not be influenced by the political affiliations of the judge appointed to preside over their case. Unfortunately, this may be the case, which is why it is so important to hire a qualified workers’ compensation attorney who understands how to help you receive the maximum benefits you are entitled to, regardless of the views of the presiding judge. If you have suffered injuries on the job in Oklahoma, contact our reputable lawyers at Oklahoma Legal Center to discuss your legal options. With our attorneys on your side, you can seek fair and timely reimbursement for your injuries and protect yourself and your family from undue financial hardship.