Tulsa Workers' Compensation Lawyers
Understanding the rights of Oklahoma workers when workplace injuries and illnesses occur
A healthy, educated, and able workforce is the lifeblood of Oklahoma. When employees are injured or suffer an occupational illness, the Oklahoma workers’ compensation system provides a remedy provided certain criteria are met. At Biby Law Firm, we analyze whether you have a workers’ compensation case or whether you have a case against any non-employer third parties.
How does a workers’ compensation case differ from a personal injury case?
The Oklahoma workers’ compensation system exists as a compromise that was reached in the Oklahoma Legislature decades ago. The worker does not need to prove fault. In return, the employer does not have to pay pain and suffering damages, and only pays a portion of the wages the worker loses.
There are several key ways that workers’ compensation cases differ from personal injury cases.
- Fault vs. no-fault. In personal injury cases, the injured victim must prove that negligence caused his/her injuries. In workers’ compensation cases, there is no need to prove the employer was at fault.
- Pain and suffering. In many personal injury cases, the pain and suffering award is the biggest part of the negligence claim. The award compensates the victim for the daily aches and pains, anxiety, and depression of coping with an injury. In workers’ compensation cases, the employee is not entitled to a pain and suffering award.
- Lost wages. In personal injury cases, the victim is entitled to all the wages or income he/she loses due to the injury. In workers compensation cases, there are limitations. In general, workers are entitled to 70% of their average weekly wages for a number of weeks. However, if a worker does not have surgery then they are cut off after 16 weeks. Once the worker reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI), the worker is evaluated to determine whether he/she has a permanent disability. Typically, employees’ cases are then settled their based upon on the degree of their permanent partial disability.
- Vocational rehabilitation expenses. Employees may be entitled to be trained for a new job if it’s clear they can’t do their old job because of the injury. Many workers who did physical labor may be eligible to be trained for a clerical or desk job.
- Doctor selection. In personal injury cases, accident victims are free to choose their own doctors. In workers’ compensation cases, there are special rules that are applicable to how a doctor will be selected.
- Case monitoring. In workers’ compensation cases, the employer may be able to appoint a nurse case manager to monitor the case for the employer. In personal injury cases, there is no formal monitoring process.
The process is different too. In personal injury cases, if the case can’t be settled, the claim is heard by a judge or a jury. If workers’ compensation cases, the claim is heard by an administrative law judge.
In some cases, such as intentional misconduct, an employee can file a personal injury claim against an employer.
A quick note about fatal workplace injuries
If a loved one dies because of another person’s negligence, then the families can file a wrongful death action. The damages include reasonable funeral and burial expenses, the grieving of the survivors, the loss of companionship of the loved one, a loss of consortium for the spouse, and the economic losses because the decedent can’t support his/her family.
In workers’ compensation cases the spouse and/or children are entitled to death benefits, too. These benefits include the funeral and burial expenses, and a payout to the spouse.
What’s the difference between an independent contractor and an employee in Tulsa?
The key factor in determining whether a worker can file a personal injury lawsuit or a workers’ compensation claim is the worker’s job status. Independent contractors can file a claim for negligence against their employer. Employees must file a workers’ compensation claim.
There are many factors that determine whether a worker is a contractor or an employee. However, some of the most frequently considered factors include:
- The ability of the employer to control the workers’ actions. More control suggests an employee status. Less control suggests a contractor status.
- How the worker is paid. Payment by the week suggests employee status. Payment by the hour suggests contractor status.
- Whether the worker can do other jobs. If a worker is working for many different employers, then he/she is likely an independent contractor.
What are the types of Tulsa workplace disability benefits?
Workers are categorized as follows depending on whether they can work and what type of work they can do.
- Temporary disability. Until a worker’s reaches maximum medical improvement, workers who can’t work receive temporary disability benefits. However, there are limitations if surgery is not had.
- Permanent partial disability. Here, the worker can return to work even though he/she has a permanent disability. The benefits vary depending on the type and scope of the disability.
What are occupational illnesses?
Some workers develop diseases or disorders due to their workplace conditions. Some diseases generally automatically qualify for occupational illness benefits because they are well-known to be due to workplace conditions. Examples include black lung disease and asbestosis.
Other diseases require the services of a skilled workers’ compensation lawyer who can show that the illness is due to work and is not due to ordinary illnesses that occur among the general public.
Speak with our Tulsa work injury lawyers today
We’ll help determine whether you have a personal injury claim or a workers’ compensation claim. If your case must be filed through the Oklahoma workers’ compensation process, we’ll speak with you about your options. To discuss your work accident case, call Biby Law Firm at 918-574-8458 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment. We proudly represent all of Oklahoma including the communities of Tulsa, Broken Arrow, Bixby, Claremore, Jenks, Sand Springs, Sapulpa, Wagoner, Muskogee, and the surrounding areas.