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Governor Stitt signs workers comp bill into law

House Bill 2367 addressed issues in the workers’ compensation system in Oklahoma. It was signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt on May 29, 2019. The bill addresses three issues the workers’ comp system faced:

  1. Oklahoma workers were receiving the lowest benefits in the nation because of the 2013 Reform Act.
  2. The Multiple Injury Trust Fund (MITF), which provides small weekly payments to 3,000 of the state’s most disabled workers, was running out of money and had an unfunded liability of more than $400,000,000.
  3. The Court of Existing Claims (CEC), which handles claims for injuries that occurred before Feb. 1, 2014, was set to expire in 2020. The present law gave no power over the appointment of judges for the CEC that was created in 2013

Highlights of the new law include:

    • The new law applies to job injuries that occur after May 30, 2019 and beyond.
    • Oklahoma now ranks 43 in the nation for workers’ comp benefits. An improvement from 51.
    • Benefits were raised by 22 percent.
    • Permanent disability rates were increased for first time since 2010.
    • Statutes of limitations to file a Multiple Injury Trust Fund claims is reduced from two years to one year.
    • A worker must be 50 percent disabled from previous work injuries before becoming eligible to file an MITF claim.
    • The period of benefits can be paid from the MITF are reduced to age 65 or 8 years, whichever is longer.
    • Injured workers will now have to contribute 3% from their settlement or awards to the MITF.
    • Employers now have the ability to terminate benefits of an injured worker if they abandon medical treatment for 60 days or refuse/ignore a judges order for medical treatment.
    • Retaliatory discharge claims are moved back to district court.
    • Double recovery of benefits is now prohibited for workers who began claims in another state.
    • The new law provides that a work activity must be the “major cause” of an injury.
    • If a worker doesn’t pursue the claim within a short period of time, it can be dimissed.
    • It eliminates the filing of unnecessary paperwork by employers.
    • Injury reports provided by employers are confidential unless an official claim is filed.
    • MITF director now reports to the governor.
    • The Court of Existing Claims will continue at least through 2022, with the governor now having power of appointment of judges and the CEC administrator.