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Oklahoma Opt Out Option – Two For Two In Court

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Oklahoma Opt Out Option Wins Two Legal Battles

The Oklahoma opt out option scored another large victory with the refusal of the state’s Supreme Court to review a recent decision rendered by the Appeals Court.   I track Oklahoma’s WC news closely as that is where I grew up and was trained in insurance.

Gear graphic Of Oklahoma Opt Out Option Workers Compensation
(c) lexisnexis.com

The Oklahoma Opt Out option went into effect on January 1, 2014.   There have been two major challenges to it including the recent Judy Pilkington et al. v. State of Oklahoma et al case that basically said the plaintiffs were denied due process.   The Workers Comp claims of Judy Pilkington and the other plaintiffs were denied by their employer.

In 2013, a lawsuit was filed by The Oklahoma Professional Firefighters Association challenging the constitutionality of the new Oklahoma Opt Out law.   The Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected the challenge in December 2013. The Court SB 1062 “is not unconstitutional as a multiple-subject bill.”   The challenge was that each Senate Bill should only cover one subject and this was a multi-subject bill.

One passage from the original lawsuit filed in the Pilkington case may make one stop and think:

Pilkington Oklahoma Opt Out Option Truck
Wikipedia – btr

There is no due process protection in allowing an Oklahoma employer to OPT OUT of the statutory workers’ compensation system, set up its own benefit plan, make all the decisions regarding benefits, determine who and how a plan can be reviewed, and have total control of the development of the record for appeal. Nowhere along the way is there an agency or court or unbiased tribunal to look at the merits of an injured worker’s case. OPT OUT employers are allowed to replace a judge with a committee chosen by the employer. That flies in the face of the federal and state constitutions.

Do Workers Comp plans owe the injured employee due process under the law?  That is a very interesting point.   Can a committee chosen by an employer actually make decisions that have the force of law?

The Oklahoma Opt Out provisions will have more challenges in the future.

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James Moore

Raleigh, NC, United States

About The Author...

James founded a Workers’ Compensation consulting firm, J&L Risk Mgmt Consultants, Inc. in 1996. J&L’s mission is to reduce our clients’ Workers Compensation premiums by using time-tested techniques. J&L’s claims, premium, reserve and Experience Mod reviews have saved employers over $9.8 million in earned premiums over the last three years. J&L has saved numerous companies from bankruptcy proceedings as a result of insurance overpayments.

James has over 27 years of experience in insurance claims, audit, and underwriting, specializing in Workers’ Compensation. He has supervised, and managed the administration of Workers’ Compensation claims, and underwriting in over 45 states. His professional experience includes being the Director of Risk Management for the North Carolina School Boards Association. He created a very successful Workers’ Compensation Injury Rehabilitation Unit for school personnel.

James’s educational background, which centered on computer technology, culminated in earning a Masters of Business Administration (MBA); an Associate in Claims designation (AIC); and an Associate in Risk Management designation (ARM). He is a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) and a licensed financial advisor. The NC Department of Insurance has certified him as an insurance instructor. He also possesses a Bachelors’ Degree in Actuarial Science.

LexisNexis has twice recognized his blog as one of the Top 25 Blogs on Workers’ Compensation. J&L has been listed in AM Best’s Preferred Providers Directory for Insurance Experts – Workers Compensation for over eight years. He recently won the prestigious Baucom Shine Lifetime Achievement Award for his volunteer contributions to the area of risk management and safety. James was recently named as an instructor for the prestigious Insurance Academy.

James is on the Board of Directors and Treasurer of the North Carolina Mid-State Safety Council. He has published two manuals on Workers’ Compensation and three different claims processing manuals. He has also written and has been quoted in numerous articles on reducing Workers’ Compensation costs for public and private employers. James publishes a weekly newsletter with 7,000 readers.

He currently possess press credentials and am invited to various national Workers Compensation conferences as a reporter.

James’s articles or interviews on Workers’ Compensation have appeared in the following publications or websites:

  • Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS)
  • Entrepreneur Magazine
  • Bloomberg Business News
  • WorkCompCentral.com
  • Claims Magazine
  • Risk & Insurance Magazine
  • Insurance Journal
  • Workers Compensation.com
  • LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites
  • Various trade publications

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