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Oklahoma Workers Compensation Reform – The Antithesis of Conservatism

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I admittedly do not personally handle workers compensation cases in Oklahoma. Over the years I’ve developed relationships with attorneys I trust to handle workers compensation cases and send my clients directly to those attorneys. I find it advantageous for a client to have an attorney whose sole focus is on workers compensation or in the case of McIntyre Law, on personal injury law.

However, with draconian tort reform enacted by our legislature last year, the new area to hurt our citizens seems to be that we now need to reform the workers compensation system. Once again, this is a vain attempt to dislodge the level playing field that exists when an attorney is involved by our legislature. Reform, supposedly being sought for altruistic purposes of lowering workers compensation premiums, is really nothing more than an attempt to benefit the insurance companies and the companies that pay them. I’ve often found it confusing that employers can employ someone, have them injured on the job, have protection from suit since the workers compensation system is the sole remedy for injured workers and then pay them a percentage of their employment. In my humble opinion the system is flawed from the start because cutting someone’s wage by 20% or more because they were injured while making money for an employer can be devastating to a family.

So as we have it, an employer can create or promote an unsafe working environment, have employees hurt and then have the insurance company pay that person less than what he or she would have made employed. Logically, it seems flawed. It seems to promote a cost benefit analysis on human life and health. For example, if an employee making $30,000 per year can make the employer $100,000 in month doing a job he or she stands a risk of 75% of being injured in, it’s worth the employer to place he or she in that position if they are only paying $500 per month for workers compensation on that employee. It becomes a numbers game and when that person is hurt the employer simply hands them over to deal with an unscrupulous insurance adjuster.

Now I’m sure staunch advocates will bolster how workers compensation insurance rates are out of control (not true) and can possibly point to a bad employee gone rogue by making a potentially frivolous claim. However, as in anything in life there are good and bad people. There are good and bad lawyers, good and bad doctors, good and bad accountants and good and bad teachers. Are we to continue to harm those injured because of a few bad apples? Should we scrap surgeries in a hospital because of a rogue unqualified doctor? Should we scrap the Constitution? The answer is no.

So how can we reduce the amount of workers compensation claims? While I not a rocket scientist, it would seem to be a common sense approach for employers to make the workplace safer. For example, install that extra guard or incorporate proper training on lock out procedures. Any other option that is focused on the worker instead of the cause of the injury is misplaced.

Its time Oklahomans stand for their rights. Too often special interests have found comfortable living at our legislature in exchange for draconian so called “reforms” aimed at nothing more than profiting those who donate the most to certain political parties at the expense of the Oklahomans. While I’m for every American making as much as their skills will allow, while I’m for lower taxes and less government intrusion; I cannot be for more government involvement in the rights of citizens to seek redress for their injuries. Why do we continue to limit what an individual can recover whereas the majority of dockets are clogged with companies suing companies or individuals with no such limitations?

Once again, logic is not pervasive when it comes to those writing laws.