Permanent Total Disability Benefits (PTD)
OKLAHOMA PERMANENT TOTAL DISABILITY BENEFITS (“PTD”)
INTRODUCTION TO PERMANENT TOTAL DISABILITY SETTLEMENTS
Oklahoma City & Tulsa Workers Compensation Court rules limit PERMANENT TOTAL DISABILITY awards, or “PTD” settlements, to those cases where an injured Oklahoma worker, through his or her attorneys or lawyers, can demonstrate that he or she is incapacitated because of accidental injury or occupational disease to earn any wages in any employment for which the employee may become physically suited and reasonably fitted by education, training or experience, including vocational rehabilitation. The ultimate determination of permanent total disability of any injured worker is the responsibility of the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court–not the employee’s treating doctor.
INJURIES CONSTITUTING STATUTORY PERMANENT TOTAL DISABILITY
Statutory Permanent Total Disability is defined by the Oklahoma City & Tulsa Work Comp Court as the injured employee’s loss of both hands, both feet, both legs or both eyes, or any two thereof and such loss shall automatically qualify an injured worker so gravely injured to an automatic award of PTD.
PROOF NECESSARY TO SUPPORT PERMANENT TOTAL SETTLEMENT
Any claim submitted by an injured employee &/or his or her attorney or lawyer to either the Oklahoma City or Tulsa Workmens Compensation Court for benefits and compensation for permanent total disability must be supported by competent medical testimony. In this regard, any medical opinion or testimony introduced into evidence during trial at either the Oklahoma City or Tulsa Workers Comp Court by either the employer, its insurance company, the injured employee, or any attorneys or lawyers must be based upon both objective medical findings and must include an evaluation by the physician or medical examiner stating his or her opinion of the injured employee’s percentage of permanent impairment and whether or not the impairment is job-related and caused by the accidental injury or occupational disease. Finally all medical opinions addressing permanent total disability must be stated by the witness within a reasonable degree of medical certainty.
WEEKLY AMOUNT & DURATION OF PERMANENT TOTAL CHECK
An injured worker in Oklahoma found by either the Oklahoma City or Tulsa Workmans Compensation Court to be permanently and totally disabled, or PTD, will receive a weekly workmens comp check which will be seventy percent (70%) of the injured employee’s average weekly wages. This weekly cash benefit will continue to be paid to the injured worker during the continuance of his or her permanent total disability and until such time as the employee reaches the age of one-hundred-percent Social Security Retirement or for a period of fifteen (15) years, whichever is longer. In the event the injured worker dies of causes unrelated to the injury or illness, any person entitled under provisions of the Oklahoma Workmans Comp Act to revive the action will receive benefits only until the date the injured worker’s benefits would have terminated had the employee lived. In the event the Oklahoma City or Tulsa Workmens Comp Court awards both permanent partial disability and permanent total disability benefits, the permanent total disability award shall not be due until the permenent partial disability awards or settlements are paid in full.
LUMP-SUM SETTLEMENT OF PERMANENT TOTAL DISABILITY AWARD
As noted above, awards of permanent total disability benefits made by the either Oklahoma City & Tulsa Workmens Compensation Court to an injured employee are by statute to be paid by periodic installments made weekly. However, whenever an injured worker receives an award for permanent total disability in Oklahoma the injured employee, through his or her attorney or lawyer, and for good cause shown, may have his or her permanent total award commuted to a lump sum cash settlement payment by permission of the Oklahoma City or Tulsa Workmans Comp Court, as the case may be. NOTE: Any lump-sum settlement check or payment of any portion of a permanent total award cannot exceed the sum of four thousand dollars ($4,000.00) or twenty-five percent (25%) of the total award, whichever is the larger sum. Any balance of the total permanent total award shall be paid in periodic installments.
VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION & PERMANENT TOTAL AWARDS
Oklahoma Workmans Compensation Law provides that an injured worker cannot be adjudicated to be permanently and totally disabled by either the Oklahoma City or Tulsa Work Comp Court until the injured employee &/or his attorneys or lawyers have first obtained an evaluation as to the practicability of restoring the injured employee to gainful employment through vocational rehabilition services or training. The injured employee &/or his or her attorney or lawyer shall pay the cost of the vocational evaluation.
The Oklahoma Workers Comp Act further provides that if an injured employee claiming permanent total disability status unreasonably refuses to be evaluated or to accept vocational rehabilitation services or training then permanent total disability benefits shall not be awarded by either the Oklahoma City or Tulsa Workers Compensation Court during the period of such refusal, and the employee shall be limited to permanent partial disability benefits only.
During the period when an employee is actively and in good faith being evaluated or participating in a retraining or job placement program for purposes of evaluating permanent total disability status, the employee shall be entitled to receive benefits at the same rate as the employee’s temporary total disability benefits for a period of fifty-two (52) weeks which may be extended by the Court for up to a maximum of an additional fifty-two (52) weeks.
If the parties fail to agree on the selection of an independent medical examiner, the Court shall randomly select an independent medical examiner who shall be afforded a reasonable opportunity to examine the employee together with all medical records involved and any other medical data or evidence that the independent medical examiner may consider to be relevant. The independent medical examiner shall issue a verified written report to the Court stating his or her finding of the percentage of permanent impairment of the employee and whether or not the impairment is job-related and caused by the accidental injury or occupational disease. An independent medical examiner in a case involving permanent disability shall not be a treating physician of the employee and shall not have treated the employee with respect to the injury for which the claim is being made or the benefits are being paid.
NOTE: Benefits for an injury shall be determined by the law in effect at the time of injury.