J. Todd Willhoite is a Workers’ Compensation attorney in Claremore. Oklahoma law provides protection to Oklahoma workers when they are injured or contract an occupational disease through work. However, those legal protections can be lost if the requirements of the law are not followed. An injured worker who follows the legal requirements may receive:
- medical treatment paid for by the workers’ compensation insurance;
- prescriptions paid for by the workers’ compensation insurance;
- weekly payments while unable to work;
- reimbursement of mileage for treatment depending on the distance traveled;
- compensation for any permanent impairment from the injury;
- vocational retraining, or job placement if unable to return to work; and
Oklahoma has established two separate systems for handling workers’ compensation cases. Injuries before February 1, 2014 are handled in a specialized court system called the Court of Existing Claims. For injuries on or after February 1, 2014 the legislature has established an administrative law system.
It is best to contact an attorney early who is experienced in working in the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation system. A delay in contacting an attorney can hurt your case. For an example, let’s assume a person hurts their back at work, but doesn’t report the injury thinking their back will get better with time. A month or so goes by and the back doesn’t heal on it’s own. Now the person tells their employer they hurt their back over a month ago. The workers’ compensation insurance carrier will hire an attorney to defend the case. In a hearing it is common to hear these attorneys raise defenses such as, how do we know you hurt it at work and not at home, or you must not have hurt it that bad at work since you didn’t even go to a doctor, or under the law their may be a presumption the injury is not work related if you didn’t provide timely notice to the employer. Even if the insurance carrier is sending you to a doctor, it is still in your best interest to have an attorney manage your case. An experienced attorney can prevent problems from happening with your case and if problems do arise, they can work to correct the problems in a timely manner.
Workers’ Compensation cases are handled on a contingency fee basis with the percentage capped by statute. The contingency fee allows an injured worker to hire an attorney without having to pay any money up front. The percentage doesn’t change whether you hire the attorney the first day you are injured or on the day of your trial at the end of your case. Since you are paying the same percentage, you get more for your money by hiring the attorney earlier. In fact you will probably end up receiving more if the attorney can work your case from the beginning and allow you to avoid mistakes that will decrease what you receive.
Insurance companies are for profit entities. An insurance company’s sole purpose is to make money for their shareholders. A company is not a human with morals, compassion, or a sense of justice. Some of the people that work there may have these traits, but their job is to maximize profits by minimizing what they pay out. If they can prevent you from getting what the law says you are entitled, then they have done their duty. In other words, the less they pay you, the more profit they make. The employer and their insurance carrier have training and legal advice from their own attorneys. You need someone experienced to help you.
Todd Willhoite has fought only for injured workers. He has never represented insurance companies and never will. Call our law office for a free consultation regarding your work related injury at (918) 341-3101.