About the Oklahoma Worker’s Compensation Court (OWCC)
The Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court applies the law as set out in the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Code (A copy is available to read at http://www.owcc.state.ok.us/administrator_and_court_rules.html) These provisions only apply to injuries occurring before February 1, 2014.
The court is responsible for systemically providing fair and timely processes for the resolution of disputes and issues involving on-the-job injuries. The Court’s mission reflects their commitment to carrying out this duty and to serving the public promptly, courteously and impartially. Specialized Judges sit on this Court.
About the OWCC Judges
The court is made up of ten (10) Judges. Each is appointed by the Governor with the advice and recommendations of the State Senate. The State Senate forms a committee known as the Judicial Nominating Commission that is tasked with the development and presentation of a list of candidates to the Governor for a selection of judges. All OWCC Judges serve staggered terms; however, they may be removed by the Court for reasons detailed in the Oklahoma State Constitution.
Daily, each Judge hears disputed workers’ compensation issues which may be resolved informally at a prehearing (settlement) conference or by a trial. Written orders of the Judge at trial are deemed final unless appealed to a three-judge review panel of the Workers’ Compensation Court or to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
In addition, Judges conduct prehearing and settlement conferences, preside at trials, draft written orders and decisions; participate in three-judge review panels; record the disposition of all docketed cases (including those settled and reset); approve settlements; review files in response to written inquiries and requests from individuals and people engaged in cases being heard by the OWCC and others; oversee the Court’s Mediation System, Independent Medical Examiner System and Medical Case Manager System; meet with parties and Court staff on various matters, including review of rules and forms; and participate in numerous educational seminars.
Note that legislation passed in 2011 requires the Governor to appoint a Judge to serve a two-year term as the presiding judge of the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court. The presiding Judge is responsible, as a centralized manager, for the overall function of the court.
About the OWCC Administrator
The Administrator is the chief administrative officer of the OWCC. He/she supervises all departments of the Court; Docketing, Order Processing, Data Processing/Management Information Services, Records, Insurance, Counselors, Form 3 Processing and the Court Clerk’s Office. The Administrator also oversees workers’ compensation self-insurance, serves as the appointing authority of the Group Self-Insurance Association Guaranty Fund Board and the Individual Self-Insured Guaranty Fund Board, annually determines the Multiple Injury Trust Fund assessment rate for workers’ compensation payors, and reviews the Court’s workers’ compensation fee schedule bi-annually. He/she also acts as a liaison with the Court and all Oklahoma state-run agencies including the Legislature.
About the OWCC Counselors Department
The Workers’ Compensation Court’s Counselors Department regularly assists individuals (employers, employees, insurers, medical providers, attorneys, governmental agencies, the Attorney General’s Workers’ Compensation Fraud Unit) actively engaged with the OWCC with information requests. In addition to responding to written, in-person and telephone inquiries, the Department produces information overviews and in-depth documents that explain the rights and responsibilities of system participants under the law.
Upon request, the WCC Counselor’s Department distributes informational documents designed for injured workers and materials for employers. In addition, the department distributes materials that describe aspects of the workers’ compensation system (such as the Workers’ Compensation Mediation Program and medical dispute resolution). Written materials on specific workers’ compensation- related topics also are prepared by Court staff and judges of the Court for educational programs outside the Court and biennial Court-sponsored educational conferences.
This interesting court and all of its Judges and Counselors play a very unique and important role in governing our state.