The Oklahoma Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments that could save injured workers’ rights to legal representation. Oklahoma lawmakers earlier this year passed a bill that replaces the state’s judicial Workers Compensation system with an administrative system
By assuming original jurisdiction to set a Dec. 10, 2013 hearing, the Supreme Court allowed attorneys to bypass filing district court cases then potentially appealing lower court decisions. The accelerate schedule allows the Supreme Court could settle the question before the new administrative workers compensation system was set up after the first of next year. The move potentially avoids costs related to implementing a new system that the court could later shut down.
(Read more about lawmakers move to shut down Oklahoma’s Workers Compensation Court here.)
Two lawmakers – a Republican and a Democrat – who challenged the dramatic change to the state’s workers comp system say the bill was passed in violation of the state constitution’s single-subject rule. That constitutional language prevents the legislature from passing unrelated measures in a single piece of legislation.
The single-subject requirement helps Oklahoma avoid some of the political horse-trading seen in Congress, where unrelated riders are sometimes attached to bills to win individual votes. The Oklahoma Supreme Court earlier this year rolled back the clock three years when it reversed a 2009 tort reform measure that had grouped together numerous revisions to civil procedures in a bill debated and passed under one title.
(Read more about how the Supreme Court salvaged Oklahoma tort law here.)
Lawmakers 2013 workers compensation measure also allows employers to opt out the state system if the employer provides benefits equivalent to those the state system provides. Lawmakers who favored the bill said it will make the state more business friendly. Some workers advocates don’t see it that way. Professional Fire Fighters of Oklahoma are also challenging the law along with the two lawmakers who are challenging it on constitutional grounds.
In the event the Supreme Court allows the administrative workers comp system to stand, the current Workers Compensation courts will most likely wind down in coming months and years. The court would continue operation to hear cases filed before the system is shut down.
In the current system, injured workers may seek representation by private attorneys who can present evidence in contested hearings related to on-the-job injuries. In the proposed system, an administrative panel would determine how much compensation workers are entitled to receive for medical costs and disabilities arising from workplace injuries.
Free Consultation: Tulsa Workers Compensation Attorney
If you’ve been injured on the job, until the end of 2013, you still have the right to an attorney. Workers suffering chronic injuries from repetitive tasks or sustained exposure to chemicals, noise or other hazards have a strong incentive to report their injuries before Feb. 1, 2014 when the judicial workers compensation system is set to shut down.
The court might not immediately announce it’s decision after the Dec. 10, 2013 hearing. Until the case is decided, there’s no way of knowing the future of Oklahoma Workers Compensation Court. It’s important to act now to be sure you collect all of the benefits to which you are entitled. For a free consultation with a Tulsa workers compensation attorney, call the Wirth Law Office – Tulsa at (918) 879-1681. You may also contact the Tulsa workers comp attorney by using the form at the top of this page.