Senator Vows Effort To Address Workers' Compensation Law

Friday, July 13th 2007, 4:27 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The co-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Friday he will do everything possible to amend the state workers' compensation law to fix a provision dealing with medical evidence that was overturned by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

``Absolutely, we will do everything we can to accomplish our goal with that legislation by changing the wording or do what is necessary to meet the constitutional issues that were brought up by this decision,'' said Sen. James R. Williamson, R-Tulsa.

Williamson referred to a Supreme Court decision that invalidated a portion of the law that prohibits medical evidence from being presented in a workers' compensation case from a doctor hired by an injured worker.

The court said it is unconstitutional to restrict the Worker's Compensation Court from hearing all medical evidence in a case.

The law was approved at a special legislative session in 2005 and signed by Gov. Brad Henry. It represented a compromise after lawmakers could not agree during the regular session. Senate President Pro Tem Mike Morgan, D-Stillwater, and then-House Speaker Todd Hiett, R-Kellyville, were principal authors.

The provision in question allowed the employer to choose the ``treating physician'' in a workers' comp case who would rate a worker's percentage of disability. A second physician called an ``independent medical examiner'' also could be brought in to rate the injury.

The law allowed a judge to choose either recommendation or a percentage between the recommendations of the two doctors. Evidence from the personal doctor of a worker could not be presented, however.

Williamson joined a spokesman for The State Chamber, which represents scores of businesses across the state, in criticizing the opinion.

``It is disappointing that we seem to be fighting not only the trial lawyers but the Supreme Court in getting this pro-business workers' comp reform passed and upheld,'' the senator said.

``The dueling doctor provision was a major component of the cost savings'' in the bill, Williamson said.

Ivan Holmes, state Democratic chairman, said Thursday the Legislature ``has no right to take away from an injured worker's right to present evidence from their own medical expert regarding the extent of their injuries.''

But Mike Seney, senior vice president for operations at the Chamber, said he was frustrated by the decision.

He said the bill was a good solution to what he said was a problem of plaintiff attorneys bringing into a case ``doctors who are hired guns and give a higher rating than what is appropriate.''

Related Story:

7/12/2007 Court Says Law Can't Bar Evidence In Workers Compensation Cases