State News : Oklahoma

NWCDN is a network of law firms dedicated to protecting employers in workers’ compensation claims.

NWCDN Members regularly post articles and summary judgements in workers’ compensations law in your state.  

Select a state from the dropdown menu below to scroll through the state specific archives for updates and opinions on various workers’ compensation laws in your state.

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Total number of Weeks for PPD

 In a 23-page opinion, the Oklahoma Supreme Court made a major ruling regarding how many total weeks of permanent disability benefits an injured worker can receive under the Administrative Workers' Compensation Act (AWCA), the new comp law that has been in effect since February 1, 2014.

 The AWCA limits to 350 the number of weeks of benefits for 100 % permanent partial disability (PPD). However, under the old workers' law that covered injuries up to January 31, 2014, the maximum number of weeks for 100 % disability was 520. In Mr. Cantwell's situation, the Workers' Compensation Court had awarded him 71 % disability to the body for injuries that occurred before the AWCA took effect on February 1, 2014.

 One of Mr. Cantwell's new injuries was to his hip, an injury admitted by his employer. He underwent 3 surgeries culmination in a total hip replacement. A judge of the Workers' Compensation Commission awarded Mr. Cantwell more than $30,000 PPD but followed the letter of the new law and said the insurance company did not have to pay the award because Mr. Cantwell was already over 350 weeks. The full Commission affirmed the judge and Mr. Cantwell appealed to the Supreme Court and claimed that it was unconstitutional for him not to receive up to 100 % disability for his lifetime injuries.

 In Cantwell v. Flex-N-Gate, 2023 OK 116, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, agreed with Mr. Cantwell and reversed the Commission's decision. The Court repeated the holding in other cases interpreting the AWCA that the law in effect at the time of an injury controls all aspects of a claim. The Supreme Court held that the Commission cannot use the number of weeks of benefits under the new law to determine what 100 % is, but rather must use percentages when old law injuries are present.

 The majority opinion held that the Commission's interpretation that an injured worker is prohibited from being awarded up to 100 % PPD is "constitutionally impermissible." The Court further said that a claimant has a "substantive right" to 100 % PPD and that the Commission's interpretation of the statute would affect that substantive right. A retroactive application of the 350-week limitation would violate Art. 5, Sec. 54 of the Oklahoma Constitution. 

 The opinion summed up its holding:

 "We hold that the 100 % limitation on PPD benefits controls over the number of weeks when awarding compensation for PPD where a claimant has both compensable awards for job-related injuries that occurred before February 1, 2014, and compensable awards for job-related injuries occurring after February 1, 2014."