How Does the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court of Existing Claims Work?
The Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court of Existing Claims (CEC) is a court of limited jurisdiction in the State of Oklahoma. The claims court is a replacement for the dissolved Workers’ Compensation Court, and as such, it bears its former duties. The Workers’ Compensation Court of Existing Claims’ function is to hear cases involving injuries of Workers’ that occur on the job and compensation claims filed before February 1, 2014, under Title 85 of the Oklahoma Statutes (Workers’ Compensation Code). In the Oklahoma court structure, the Workers’ Compensation Court of Existing Claims is a lower court and a court of record. Its decisions are appealable to the Supreme Court.
The Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act, which guides the Workers’ Compensation Court of Existing Claims, also created the Worker’s Compensation Commission. This state agency performs similar duties to the compensation court. The Worker’s Compensation Commission is an administrative agency with the legal powers to appoint a trial judge from one of its administrative law judges when a dispute to a claim arises. In present times, the Worker’s Compensation Commission assists the Workers’ Compensation Court of Existing Claims by appointing its administrative law judges to the compensation court in the circumstance that a case involves worker injury filed after February 1, 2014.
The governor appoints ten judges assigned to the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court of Existing Claims. The Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission receives applications for the position of judges and selects qualified candidates. The qualification to apply to be a judge on the Workers’ Compensation Court of Existing Claims is to be a law degree holder. The judges appointed to sit on the Workers’ Compensation Court of Existing Claims serve staggered terms, and the method of retention of judges is by reappointment by the governor. A presiding judge is selected by the governor every two years to be in charge of the court’s general administration.
The location of the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court of Existing Claims and the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission is:
1915 N. Stiles Ave, Ste 127
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
Phone: (405) 522–8600
Workers’ Compensation Court of Existing Claims records can be obtained by the general public upon request unless there is an outlined exemption. These records are maintained at the Denver Davison Building. A physical visit to the records department must access claims files as internet access to the files is not allowed. A request for claims file information can be made through the mail with a completed Prior Claims Request Form and sent to the records department. The required amount to make copies of claim files is $1.00 per page, and the acceptable payment method is cash or check.
A written request can be sent to the Court Administrator to access claim files as well. However, the court file number must be known to make such a request. If the file number is unknown, the Court’s Public Access Terminal can be used to get the number as interested parties can search using the names of the Workers’ involved in the claims case. The court locations in Tulsa and Oklahoma City both have a Public Access Terminal. A password to access the terminal is assigned to an interested individual by court staff after a searcher log is signed. Search fees also apply.
The preservation period for death claims files and records for other injuries is twenty-five years and ten years, respectively. Although the Workers’ Compensation Court of Existing Claims destroys claims files, the records department keeps a journal of court orders and settlements of cases heard in the court. All requests for claims files or journals carry an applicable fee. Persons exempted from filing a written request for a claims file and are also not required to pay a fee are:
- Public officers or public employees in the course of duty for a government entity
- Parties requiring the claims information to process some aspect of the worker’s compensation (including payment for services rendered, court proceedings, or educational and research purposes for which the court cannot disclose the worker’s identity involved in the claim)
The duration of a Workers’ compensation claim case can vary but is typically concluded 60 days after filing a claim. Most compensation claims involve settlement from the employer. A trial for a compensation claim is usually unnecessary unless a dispute arises between the employer and the employee over the claim submitted. A worker’s compensation trial is a non-jury trial presided over by a judge who will decide, based on medical evidence and testimony given, what benefits are entitled to the worker.
The court sets up a three-judge panel to review appeals filed at the Workers’ Compensation Court of Existing Claims. As the primary appellate court for civil matters, the Oklahoma Supreme Court also hears appeals for claims and an administrative law judge’s decision.