In a recent case from the Oklahoma Supreme Court, an injured employee filed a lawsuit against her employer, who allegedly refused to comply with valid orders from the workers’ compensation court following an on-the-job injury. Claimant further argued that this unwillingness to follow the orders of the workers’ compensation court were done in bad faith, and this would make the claim actionable before a civil court with subject matter and personal jurisdiction.
In this case, plaintiff argued that the workers’ compensation court had ordered her employer to compensate her following an on-the-job injury, but the employer failed to follow this order on 26 separate occasions through their bad faith in providing her with the benefits to which she was entitled. The benefits in this case were awarded for her temporary total disability.
As you can discuss with one of our experienced Boston workers’ compensation attorneys, when you are injured on the job and file for benefits, you are asking the employer, or perhaps the workers’ compensation commission, to assign you what is known as disability rating. There are various different types of disability ratings. The first assignment that must be made is whether your disability rating will be for a permanent or temporary disability. In some cases, the disability will be first classified as a temporary one expecting treatment and rest to heal the claimant, but if that fails to happen, the rating may be converted to a permanent disability.
When the doctor has done everything he or she can feasibly do to help the patient, and it is getting to the point where there is no reason to do any other procedures, the insurance company will likely assert that the patient has reached the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI), and there is no reason to pay for anymore treatment. At this point, the claim may get converted from a temporary disability rating to a permanent disability rating. This will mean that the employer will be committed to paying for lost wages going forward but will not be required to pay for any additional medical treatment that may be very costly.
The second assessment that must be made is whether the disability is affecting the employee’s ability to work at all, or whether it is just a partial disability. As the name implies, with a total permanent disability, the claimant cannot work at all and will not be expected to get better. A temporary total disability affects the claimant’s ability to do any work, but they are expected to be getting healthy in the future. This would allow him or her to get back to work.
In this case, the employer tried to defend the claim by arguing that the claimant had not obtained the proper certification of one of the many orders requiring the employer to pay workers’ compensation benefits to employee. The trial court dismissed this case on that basis. At that point, the claimant appealed to the state supreme court, and this court found that the judge had erred as a matter of law and that claimant could file a suit against employer for their alleged bad faith failure to follow court orders.
If you or someone you love has been injured a Boston work accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.
Meeks v. Guarantee Insurance Co., February 28, 2017, Supreme Court of Oklahoma
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