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If your business has employees in the state of Oklahoma, you’ll need to make sure you adhere to Oklahoma’s Workers’ Compensation Insurance laws. Workers’ Compensation provides medical and financial benefits for employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses or for their survivors in the case of an employee death.
Who needs Workers’ Compensation Insurance in Oklahoma?
Oklahoma requires all employers who have at least one employee to obtain Workers’ Compensation Insurance. In Oklahoma, an “employee” is generally defined as any individual in the service of an employer under any written or oral contract of hire or apprenticeship.
The Oklahoma Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act (AWCA) defines all of the requirements for Workers’ Comp in Oklahoma, and the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) monitors, enforces, and administers the program. Ensuring your company is in compliance is critical, as there are serious penalties and fines for those who fail to abide by state regulations.
What employees are covered under Workers’ Compensation in Oklahoma?
Almost all workers are covered under Workers’ Compensation in Oklahoma. If you provide work or services for an employer, and you are not an independent contractor, you will likely be eligible for Workers’ Compensation Insurance.
The following are categories of employees that are eligible for Workers’ Comp coverage:
- Full-time and part-time employees
- Apprenticeships and internships
- Undocumented workers
The following are categories of employees that are generally excluded from Workers’ Comp coverage:
- Independent contractors
- Casual or occasional workers
- Domestic workers employed by an employer with less than $50,000 in annual payroll
- Agricultural or horticultural workers employed by an employer with less than $100,000 in payroll
- Anyone related to their employer if the employer has five or fewer total employees, all of whom are dependents living in the household of the employer
- Licensed real estate sales associates or brokers who are paid on a commission basis
- Volunteers, except those of certain emergency and law enforcement services
- Sole proprietors, members of a partnership, and members of a limited liability company who own at least 10% of the capital of the LLC are exempted by law but may elect to be covered
What Workers’ Compensation benefits do employees receive?
Under Workers’ Compensation in Oklahoma, employers are required to provide the following benefits to employees who are injured in the course of employment:
- Employers are required to promptly provide an injured employee with medical, surgical, hospital, optometric, podiatric, and nursing services. This may also include medicine, crutches, ambulatory devices, artificial limbs, eyeglasses, contact lenses, hearing aids, and other apparatuses.
- Employers have the right to choose an employee’s treating physician, but if none are selected within five days of receiving notice of the injury, the employee may choose their own treating physician.
- Employees may receive reimbursement for mileage expenses if they must travel more than 20 miles round trip to receive reasonable and necessary treatment, to undergo an evaluation of an independent medical examiner, or to undergo an evaluation at the employer’s or insurer’s request.
- If recommended by the treating doctor or an independent medical examiner at the time an employee reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI), an employee may be entitled to receive continuing medical maintenance and treatment to maintain an employee’s condition.
Temporary Total Disability Benefits
- If an employee is temporarily unable to return to work due to a job-related injury or occupational disease, he or she is eligible to receive Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits while recovering, which provides 70 percent of a worker’s average weekly wage pre-injury.
- The WCC establishes maximum benefit amounts, which change yearly. For accidents that occur in 2021, the maximum TTD benefit is $923.53 per week.
- TTD benefits are initially available for up to 156 weeks. Payment may continue for an additional 52 weeks if there is a finding of consequential injury, and additional time is needed to reach maximum medical improvement.
- TTD benefits are not paid for the first three days of the initial period of temporary total disability.
Temporary Partial Disability Benefits
- Injured employees who are able to perform alternative work but unable to earn as much as he or she made pre-injury may be entitled to Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) benefits.
- TPD benefits provide 70 percent of the difference between a worker’s pre- and post-injury average weekly wage.
- The WCC establishes maximum benefit amounts, which change yearly. For accidents that occur in 2021, the maximum TPD benefit is $923.53 per week.
- TPD benefits are available until the employee can resume their normal workload or up to 52 weeks.
Permanent Partial Disability Benefits
- If an injured worker reaches maximum medical improvement but is unable to perform the same job duties as he or she could perform before the injury, but is still capable of working in some capacity, the employee may be eligible for Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) benefits.
- PPD benefits provide 70 percent of a worker’s average weekly wage pre-injury. A PDD schedule lists disabilities and the number of weeks benefits are available.
- If an employee’s loss is only partial and does not involve an amputation, the employee will be awarded PPD benefits for a partial amount of the weeks listed in the PPD schedule.
- If an employee’s loss is not listed in the PPD schedule, he or she may be awarded benefits for up to 360 weeks for the loss to the body as a whole.
- The WCC establishes maximum benefit amounts. For accidents that occurred from May 28, 2019, to June 30, 2021, the maximum PPD benefit is $350 per week. For accidents that occur starting from July 1, 2021, the maximum PPD benefit will be $360 per week.
Permanent Total Disability Benefits
- Permanent Total Disability (PTD) benefits are paid for a job-related injury or occupational disease that results in permanent total disability, which prevents the employee from earning wages.
- Under the AWCA, loss of both hands, both feet, both legs, both eyes, or any combination of two or more of those body parts constitutes PTD.
- PTD benefits may also be granted to an employee who has received all of his or her TTD benefits but remains in the healing period for an injury.
- PTD benefits provide 70 percent of a worker’s average weekly wage pre-injury. If the employee remains totally disabled, he or she will continue to receive these benefits for 15 years or until the employee reaches the age of maximum Social Security retirement benefits, whichever period is longer.
- The WCC establishes maximum benefit amounts, which change yearly. For accidents that occur in 2021, the maximum PTD benefit is $923.53 per week.
- A lump-sum benefit of up to $50,000 may be paid to an employee who has suffered a serious and permanent disfigurement resulting from a job-related injury or occupational disease.
- An employee may not receive disfigurement benefits if he or she received PPD benefits for the same part of the body.
Vocational Rehabilitation Benefits
- Vocational rehabilitation services, such as counselor coordination services, job placement services, and retraining programs, may be provided for injured employees who are unable to perform their previous work duties.
- An employee may receive these benefits for up to 52 weeks.
- Employers are required to pay funeral expenses up to $10,000.
- A surviving spouse may receive a lump-sum payment of $100,000 and weekly payments equal to 70 percent of the deceased employee’s average weekly wages. If the surviving spouse remarries, he or she will receive a lump sum payment equal to two years’ worth of weekly benefits before the payments stop. A surviving spouse who never remarries may receive the weekly income benefits for life.
- Surviving children may also receive lump-sum payments and weekly payments equal to a percentage of the deceased employee’s average weekly wages. Benefit amounts depend on the number of children and whether or not there is a surviving spouse. These benefits end on the child’s death, marriage, or 18th birthday (or 23rd birthday if the child is a full-time student).
- If there is no surviving spouse or children, each legal guardian who was financially dependent on the employee will receive weekly payments equal to 25 percent of the deceased employee’s average weekly wages. These benefits are payable for up to five years.
- For accidents that occur in 2021, the maximum benefit was $923.53 per week.
What are the penalties for breaking Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation laws?
Failure to adhere to the Workers’ Compensation laws set out by the AWCA can result in significant fines and even imprisonment. In order to avoid any costly penalties, it’s important to consult the AWCA or your insurer to ensure you are in compliance. Below are the major ways in which companies can be penalized:
Failure to Secure Coverage
- Failure to secure Workers’ Compensation Insurance is punishable by a WCC fine of up to $1,000 for every day of the employer’s noncompliance.
- Failure to secure coverage may also be charged with a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500, imprisonment for up to one year, or both. Upon conviction of a misdemeanor, the WCC may also assess a fine of up to $10,000.
- The WCC may also seek an employment injunction, prohibiting an employer from engaging in further employment until the employer has secured coverage and paid all fines.
Failure to Pay Benefits
- Employers may be required to pay interest on any weekly benefits that are not paid.
- Employers are required to pay for the medical expenses of a work-related injury within 45 days of receiving a bill. Failure to do so may lead to a penalty of up to 25 percent of each unpaid amount.
- If the employer intentionally delays payments, he or she may have to pay civil penalties of up to $5,000 for each violation.
Failure to File Reports
- Employers may have to pay a civil penalty of $500 if they fail to report an employee’s injury within 10 days of receiving notice.
- Employers must file an Employer’s Intent to Accept or Controvert Claim with the Commission after an employee reports an injury and misses more than three days of work as a result of the injury. This report must be filed within 15 days after becoming aware of the incident. An employer that fails to file this report within the 15-day period must begin paying benefits directly to the employee.
- Employers must notify the Commission whenever they stop paying benefits to their employees. This report must be postmarked within 30 days of the last payment made to the employee or the employer may receive a civil penalty of up to $100.
- Employers may not retaliate or discriminate against an employee who files a workers’ compensation claim, retains an attorney, or participates in any proceeding under the AWCA.
- An employee may sue their employer for these particular claims and the employer may be liable for up to $100,000 in punitive damages.
How much does Workers’ Compensation Insurance cost in Oklahoma?
According to the National Academy of Social Insurance Workers’ Compensation Report (November 2020), the average employer cost for Workers’ Compensation in Oklahoma was $1.21 per $100 of covered wages. This figure is estimated across all insurers and all industries, so the cost to your particular business may vary.
How does the Workers’ Compensation claims process work in Oklahoma?
Employees must provide oral or written notice of a workplace injury within 30 days of the incident. Employees must also provide notice of an occupational disease or injury due to cumulative or repeated trauma within six months of the injury. Any delay in reporting may result in delays in the claims process or denial of the claim.
The employer must send an Employer’s First Notice of Injury to the Commission within 10 days of first receiving notice or having knowledge of an injury resulting in more than three days of lost time. The employer has 15 days to decide whether to accept or deny that the injury is compensable under the AWCA and must provide notice of its decision to the Commission by filing an Employer’s Intent to Accept or Controvert Claim.
If an employer contests a claim, he or she must also send a copy of the form to the employee. This may prompt the employee to file a claim for compensation with the Commission and to request a hearing.
Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Insurance Resources
For more information on Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation laws and requirements, please visit the following resources: