Workers' comp law praised

The Journal Record
By M. Scott Carter
June 8, 2011

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma’s new workers’ compensation law is a positive change for businesses and will increase the speed that cases move through the court system, a legal expert said this week.

Part of a package of pro-business legislation pushed by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin, Senate Bill 878 is more than just tweaks to the state’s workers’ compensation system, said Tulsa attorney Madalene Witterholt. The bill – more than 200 pages long – is a major rewrite of the entire law, she said.

“It’s a major change,” she said. “The new law has positive changes for business. It tightened up the way the statutes and the rules read and made them more consistent with philosophies of the judges on the workers’ comp court.”

Witterholt, a partner with the Crowe & Dunlevy law firm, said one of the law’s biggest changes was the adoption of a separate new workplace drug law.

“This year the Legislature changed the state’s drug testing act,” she said. “This new workers’ comp law sucks that in. It clarifies that there will be no workers’ comp benefits paid for anyone who tests positive for drug use. That’s how serious employers are about it.”

Additionally, the measure reduced the amount of time allowed to report an on-the-job injury and now requires injured employees to use a doctor chosen for them by their employer. Witterholt said that doctor, however, could be changed through a court ruling.

And while Witterholt said some portions of the law could spawn lawsuits, she said the overall package balanced between the worker and the employee.

“Now the Legislature is pointing us toward national information to direct what is and what isn’t reasonable,” she said.

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