In Oklahoma, injured workers may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, including wage loss benefits and medical care. To collect these benefits, you must follow Oklahoma's claim process by notifying your employer and filing a formal claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission. If you do not follow the correct procedure, your benefits may be denied.
Oklahoma’s workers’ comp system has undergone significant changes since 2014. This article focuses on claim procedures for injuries and occupational illnesses occurring on or after February 1, 2014. If you were injured before February 1, 2014, the Workers’ Compensation Court of Existing Claims will handle your claim (and different procedures may apply). Contact a workers’ comp lawyer for more information.
The Workers’ Compensation Commission oversees Oklahoma workers’ comp claims. By law, most employers must have workers’ compensation coverage. Employers typically obtain coverage either by purchasing a workers’ comp policy from an insurance company or receiving certification from the state to self-insure. For a short time, Oklahoma allowed employers to opt out of the workers’ comp system. However, the Oklahoma Supreme Court overturned this opt-out provision in September of 2016.
Oklahoma has a no-fault workers’ compensation system. You do not need to show that your employer caused your injury in order to receive benefits. As long as your injury happened on the job or was caused by your work activities, you are eligible for benefits.
Eligible workers may receive a variety of benefits, including:
Workers’ comp is your exclusive remedy against your employer and its insurance company. You cannot sue your employer in court and seek other compensation (for example, for pain and suffering). However, you may have a “third party” lawsuit if someone else’s carelessness caused your injuries (other than a coworker). To learn more, see our article on suing outside of workers’ comp.
To be eligible for workers’ comp in Oklahoma, you must report most injuries to your employer within 30 days. Repetitive use injuries and occupational illnesses must be reported in writing within six months of developing clear symptoms of the disease or condition, or within 30 days of leaving your employment, whichever happens first. If you fail to meet these deadlines, you may lose some or all of your benefits.
Once notified, your employer should allow you to get necessary medical treatment. Under Oklahoma law, your employer or its insurance company will choose your treating doctor. At this appointment, it is important to give accurate information about the cause of your injuries and the severity of your symptoms. Insurance companies rely heavily on initial medical records when they evaluate claims. Either downplaying or exaggerating your symptoms may result in a denial of benefits.
Once you notify your employer, it typically must complete an Employer’s First Notice of Injury (Form 2) and submit it to the Commission. It must also notify its insurance company of your claim. The insurance company will then determine your eligibility for benefits. Its investigation may involve:
In Oklahoma, the insurance company must either approve or deny your claim within 15 days. (Under certain circumstances, it may request a 15-day extension, giving the insurance company a total of 30 days to decide your claim.) If approved, your benefits should be paid promptly. If your claim is denied, you will receive a written Employer's Intent to Controvert Claim (CC-Form-2A).
If your claim is denied, you have the right to appeal. To appeal, you must file both a formal Notice of Claim and a Request for Hearing. The filing deadlines for a Notice of Claim vary:
Finally, if your workers’ comp was initially paid and then terminated by the insurance company, you must file a claim within either one year of your last benefit payment or two years from your date of injury (whichever is later). Filing after these deadlines can result in the automatic denial of your workers’ comp claim. You must also file a Request for Hearing (Form 9) to begin the formal hearing process.
Before you file an appeal, you should also consider hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer. A defense lawyer will represent the insurance company and you may be at a disadvantage if you proceed without an attorney. You also can receive information and assistance from the Workers’ Compensation Counselor Program (a state ombudsman service).