A judge in Pottawatomie County handed down a ruling last week that could have a massive impact on your ability to collect workers’ compensation benefits.
Darrell Duck of Shawnee was injured at a Hibdon Tires Plus store where he was employed. He is seeking compensation for neck and back injuries he received while using equipment to loosen a bolt on a wheel. On Friday, Jan. 9, a district Judge in Pottawatomie County ruled that Duck could sue his employer for negligence because his injury was “foreseeable.”
The Judge ruled that the new law requires an accident be “unforeseeable” in order to be a compensable injury.
To understand this better, we need to look at how the workers’ compensation system works in Oklahoma.
The current workers’ compensation system exists because of what’s often called the “grand bargain” between attorneys and the business world.
Simply, workers forfeit their right to sue their employers for negligence, but only in exchange for their employers agreeing to compensate for their injuries with neither side admitting or proving fault.
What this means is that injured workers are guaranteed they will be provided for if they are injured, even if they are to blame, and businesses are protected against lawsuits that could bankrupt their companies.
The Jan. 9 decision could bring light to the fact that the legislation that went into effect February 1, 2014 concerning workers’ compensation is completely flawed. The law is not fair to injured workers and is simply aimed at taking away rights of injured workers. The ruling could give injured workers the advantage of suing the employer in district court for negligent acts.
In 2013, the state legislature rewrote our workers’ compensation laws to shift from a court-based system to an administrative one, adversely affecting injured workers. It was sloppily drafted and it unfairly restricts the rights of the injured worker.
This ruling could have wide-reaching effects on your benefits and is surely to be challenged to the State Supreme Court.
As experienced and trusted workers compensation attorneys, we will be monitoring the outcome of this ruling very closely.