The predominant area of practice for Burton Law Group, P.C. is Workers’ Compensation. There are currently two locations, Tulsa and Oklahoma City, where Workers’ Compensation hearings are held. Our office appears weekly at both venues and has offices in both Tulsa and Oklahoma City to better serve injured workers from all parts of the state. On the job injuries can have a devastating effect on not only the injured worker but also his or her family and we will be there when you need help. Below we have outlined some basic rights which are currently available to injured workers. If we can be of assistance to you, please do not hesitate to call or email with your questions. We’re here to help!
While you are off work and under the active care of a doctor, you are entitled to a weekly check of temporary total disability or “off work” benefits. The law establishes the amount of your check which is largely dependent on your date of injury. You can determine the amount of your weekly check by multiplying your average weekly gross wages by 70% and comparing it to the maximum allowed below.
- Injury between November 1, 2005 and October 31, 2008: The check should be 70 (seventy) percent of your average weekly wage up to a maximum of $577.00.
- Injury between November 1, 2008 and October 31, 2009: The check should be 70 (seventy) percent of your average weekly wage up to a maximum of $683.00.
- Injury between November 1, 2009 and August 26, 2010: The check should be 70 (seventy) percent of your average weekly wage up to a maximum of $717.00.
Injury between August 27, 2010 and October 31, 2011; The check should be 70 (seventy) percent of your average weekly wage up to a maximum of $716.00; also a new minimum of $150.00.
- Injury between November 1, 2011 and October 31, 2012; The check should be 70 (seventy) percent of your average weekly wage up to a maximum of $735.00; minimum of $150.00.
- Injury between November 1, 2012 and October 31, 2013; The check should be 70 (seventy) percent of your average weekly wage up to a maximum of $771.00; minimum of $150.00.
- Injury between November 1, 2013 and January 31, 2014; The check should be 70 (seventy) percent of your average weekly wage up to a maximum of $801.00; minimum of $150.00
- Injury between February 1, 2014 and October 31, 2014; The check should be 70 (seventy) percent of your average weekly wage up to a maximum of $561.00.
- Injury between November 1, 2014 and October 31, 2015; The check should be 70 (seventy) percent of your average weekly wage up to a maximum of $571.55.
- Injury between November 1, 2015 and October 31, 2016; The check should be 70 (seventy) percent of your average weekly wage up to a maximum of $589.33; no minimum.
- Injury between November 1, 2016 and October 31, 2017; the check should be 70 (seventy) percent of your average weekly wage up to a maximum of $596.03; no minimum.
The benefits you receive from workers’ compensation are NOT subject to any state or federal withholding taxes. You do not need to report this money when filing a tax return. If this office’s efforts result in the insurance company starting these benefits, then the law entitles the attorney to a ten percent fee for those services. If you are already receiving these weekly “temporary” benefits, then there is not an attorney fee on these off-work “temporary” benefits.
Remember, to receive and continue to receive these “temporary” benefits you must remain under the active care of a physician, who is of the opinion you should be kept off work because of the on the job injury AND who is of the opinion that the treatment you are being provided is continuing to improve your condition. If your injury falls into the soft tissue category, there may be only a very short period of TTD allowed and it may be terminated automatically. Once you have reached maximum medical improvement the insurance company may be allowed to stop these “temporary” off-work checks.
The law does not require payment for the first three calendar days missed from work while under the doctor’s care for injuries that occur before August 26, 2011. For injuries that occur between August 26, 2011 and January 31, 2014, there is no payment for the first seven (7) days of work missed unless the employee remains off work for more than twenty-one (21) days at which time the first seven (7) days will be paid. For injuries after February 1, 2014, the first three calendar days missed from work while under the doctor’s care are not required to be paid. The entire time you are under the doctor’s care you are entitled to be reimbursed for mileage and prescriptions (see additional information below).
The employer or insurance company does not always voluntarily start paying your “temporary” off-work benefits. They may believe they have a defense. For example they may be of the opinion you are able to work or that your injury did not happen on the job. Insurance companies are sometimes very quick to claim they have a defense, so they will not have to pay benefits immediately.
It is my experience that in most cases after the Court hears the testimony, the appropriate workers’ compensation benefits are awarded to the employee. If you are not already receiving off-work benefits; and they are in fact due, please be advised one of the first things we will do is begin working on getting these “temporary” off-work benefits if they are appropriate to your situation.
Sometimes the parties must have a hearing to obtain TTD benefits. The hearing can take up to 60-90 days from the day the request is filed to be set by the Court. Once I get your medical records I will file a request with the Court for a hearing. While we are awaiting the Court date, we will make every effort to convince the insurance company to start your off-work benefits back to the first day they should have started voluntarily without the necessity of a court hearing. This system is overcrowded and often insurance companies are understaffed; therefore, your patience in getting the initial off-work benefits started remains appreciated.
You are entitled to “reasonable and necessary” medical treatment. The Court can order your employer or their insurance company to pay the physician’s reasonable and necessary medical treatment directly related to your injury. There are various rules that the law has imposed as to what is “reasonable and necessary” medical treatment. There are also very specific procedures to follow when changing physicians, and they vary according to when your date of injury occurred. Most importantly, an injured worker cannot change doctors without prior approval by the insurance company or Court. Please keep this office advised if you receive either a full or light duty release from any doctor, a referral to another doctor, or if you do not feel like you are responding well to the treatment you are being provided.
The law provides that the insurance company must reimburse you at the statutory rate per mile whenever you travel in excess of 20 miles round trip to see a doctor for treatment or a doctor for the insurance company. They do not have to pay mileage for any doctors this office may send you to for a disability report or for any travel expenses you may incur in attending a deposition or hearing. The maximum reimbursement allowed for any one trip is six hundred (600) miles round trip. If you travel over 100 miles, I would suggest that you include a request for a meal allowance although it is not clear that current law allows for reimbursement of same.
At this point, since your condition is no longer considered a “temporary” one (the doctor has improved your condition as well as he can), your weekly checks will stop. At this point our office will have you examined by a physician for his opinion as to your “permanent partial” disability benefits or we will ask the court to schedule such an exam. Once that physician’s report is received, we will file a request for a hearing before the Workers’ Compensation Court. The hearing is for the purpose of the Court to determine the extent of “permanent partial” disability the employee still has from the injury even though the employee has received medical treatment.
Neither doctors nor medicine are perfect and sometimes even though the doctor performs tests and provides treatment they cannot completely solve the problem. The problems which remain are what the law refers to as “permanent partial” disability or impairment benefits.
Recent changes in the law limit the amount of permanent disability that can be awarded but ultimately it is a decision for the Workers’ Compensation Court or Commission (depending on your date of injury) to make concerning whether or not you are entitled to permanent partial disability. Your employer’s insurance company may have you examined by a physician of their choice prior to that same hearing. The court gives the parties approximately 30 days notice of an upcoming hearing.
On the Court date, either a hearing or an out of court settlement will be conducted. If we have a hearing with the Judge determining the extent of your permanent partial disability benefits, then the Judge will review the medical reports supplied by the parties, listen to your testimony regarding your present problem and will issue an Order as to how many weeks of “partial” disability benefits you will receive beyond the “temporary” benefits you received while off work under the active care of the doctor.
The Court or Commission will issue an order as to the final determination normally one to two weeks following the hearing. Our office will provide you with a copy of the order as soon as it is received. There will be an attached letter further explaining the Order itself.
The order will provide for a 20% attorney fee on the permanent partial disability benefits. Normally, this office may also have additional expenses that were incurred to get your case prepared for trial. This could include the charge submitted by the physician who examined you at the request of my office for the purpose of a disability report, any charges submitted by the doctors who have treated you for supplying the medical records from their office files, or any cost incurred if questioning of the insurance company’s physician becomes necessary. This office will pay all of these expenses initially and then you can reimburse these litigation expenses once we enter into a settlement of your claim.
The law provides that any person who is receiving “off work” checks or TTD (temporary total disability) benefits from an employer or its insurance carrier has an obligation to promptly report in writing any change in material fact or change in the amount of income the person is receiving or any change in the person’s employment status which occurs during the period of receipt of such benefits. Should you be drawing “temporary” benefits and return to any type of employment, then you should notify my office, in writing, immediately. It is a crime to receive temporary total disability checks while you are working. These are the monetary amounts normally received after the injury and while under treatment. The other benefits or permanent partial disability that you receive after a court hearing can be received even though you are able to work. It is only a crime to receive “temporary total” disability benefits and work for wages.
Of course, once your physician has released you to return to work, we do encourage you to attempt to do so. Once released, it will not hurt your claim if you are able to find any type of work either from the same employer or a new employer. Even though the physicians may be of the opinion you have some “permanent partial disability” that does not mean that you are totally prevented from seeking employment.
By all means, wait until your treating physician releases you or advises you that you can look for work before doing so. The physician may want to continue to see you even though he has released you to look for work or return to work in a limited capacity. This is permitted.
The Workers’ Compensation Act does provide for benefits concerning retraining into another field or job placement. You may want to get started on retraining while you are still drawing the weekly “temporary” checks. Once you advise this office as to the potential need for retraining, we will be glad to send you more information as to what the law provides or discuss the same with you by phone or in person. The retraining benefit must be requested with the Court within 60 (sixty) days of your final hearing or you have waived any rights you might be entitled to regarding retraining.
We would be happy to assist you with any on the job injury related matter. Feel free to speak to Brandon J. Burton or Athlea Adkisson regarding any workers compensation issue. We’re here to help!