Legislator's Case Goes before Oklahoma Workers' Comp Court

Earlier this week, the Oklahoma Criminal Defense blog discussed in general terms how an Oklahoma workers' compensation lawyer may be able to help you obtain benefits if you are injured at work.  An attorney can help you file your claim, settle your claim outside of court, or represent you before a judge at the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court in order to help you receive benefits that an employer's insurer is unwilling to pay without an OWCC judgement. Now, an Oklahoma legislator is demonstrating how the workers' compensation process can play out when a case goes to trial.  State Representative Mike Christian, Republican, is seeking workers' compensation benefits for medical costs associated with a 2009 car accident.  Christian claims that because the accident occurred while he was on his way to work at the Capitol, his injury was sustained in the performance of job duties, and is therefore eligible for workers' compensation benefits.  Christian says he sustained neck and back injuries in the accident, and that the lingering injuries may necessitate neck surgery. The central issue in determining the case seems to be whether Christian was "on-duty" when his vehicle was struck by a hit-and-run motorist on February 26, 2009.  Christian asserts that he was on duty because he was en route from his "duty station," his south Oklahoma City district, to the Capitol to present a bill before the House transportation committee.  His workers' comp lawyer presented numerous rulings to the judge which seem to support his assertion that transportation between the representative's district and the Capitol building is, in fact, a job duty. Also lending support to his claim is the fact that Christian's commute is eligible for mileage reimbursement by the state.  Christian said he has waived the reimbursement in order to save taxpayers approximately $500 per year, but an attorney for the state's insurer claims that the representative waived mileage because of concerns about constitutional violations because he often carpools with his wife.  Regardless of his reasons for waiving mileage reimbursement, it does appear that the state considers transportation to the Capitol for legislative business to be a compensable part of a legislator's job duties. If he is awarded benefits, it will not be the first time Christian has received workers' comp benefits from the state. In 1998, Christian received $9,942 in workers' compensation benefits as a result of a back injury he sustained while working as an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper.  That case was the result of a 1996 car accident in which his patrol car was struck from behind during a traffic stop. In 2001, he received $15,000 in benefits related to two other incidents while working as an  OHP trooper:  injuries sustained in a traffic accident in 1999 and injuries sustained during the arrest of a suspect in 2000. An Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court judge will rule in the case later this month.

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