NORMAN — Sen. Rob Standridge this week applauded the passage of a proposal to comprehensively reform Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system. Co-authored by Standridge, Senate Bill 1062 would replace the state’s judicial system for workers’ compensation with an administrative system. Oklahoma is one just two states which still use a judicial system for the resolution of workers’ compensation cases. As a result, Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system has been ranked the sixth most expensive for employers.
Standridge noted the system also fails at its most fundamental responsibility – helping injured workers get healed and back to work.
“In one survey after the next, Oklahoma business owners have identified the state’s workers’ compensation system as our primary roadblock to job growth,” said Standridge, R-Norman. “But the system also fails to help injured workers get medical care quickly and get them back on the job. This system has enriched the few at the expense of the broader economy, and it should be fundamentally restructured.”
Standridge explained that Oklahoma’s current system has created an adversarial environment, with doctors and lawyers fighting to generate higher awards, regardless of the needs of the employee. In 2011 there were over 28,000 trials and contested case hearings in Oklahoma. In Texas and Arkansas, there were approximately 4,000 respectively. Per 100,000 workers, the average lost time claim frequency is 1,415 days in Oklahoma, but is just 732 days in Texas and 653 days in Arkansas.
“Our workers’ compensation system is simply a glaring problem for the state,” Standridge said. “The adoption of an administrative system will drive down costs and help get injured workers back on the job more efficiently. By doing so, we will remove a significant barrier to job growth in Oklahoma.”
In addition to adopting an administrative system, SB 1062 would provide options for arbitration, place restrictions on legal fees that may be extracted from clients and require objective medical evidence before a claim will be granted.
Having been approved by the full Senate, the bill will soon be considered by a House committee.