Oklahoma Workers' Comp Court Judge Begins Term

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.  In mid-December, Governor Mary Fallin appointed Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court judge L. Brad Taylor to replace Michael Harkey as the presiding judge of the court.  The presiding judge is responsible for the overall function of the court, and Judge Taylor's term begins today. As a lawyer, Taylor primarily handled workers' compensation cases, and Governor Fallin credits his experience representing both employees and employers as with his ability to serve as "an effective and impartial member" of the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court. The Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court considers cases involving workplace injuries and on-the-job injuries that occur during the course of employment.  The court is made up of ten judges, each appointed by the governor with the advice and council of the state senate; the governor selects judges from a list provided by the Judicial Nominating Commission.  Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court judges serve staggered terms; however, they may be removed by the Court on the Judiciary for reasons enumerated in the state constitution. According to the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court website, the responsibilities and duties of the OWCC judges are as follows: Each judge hears disputed workers’ compensation issues which may be resolved informally at a prehearing or settlement conference, or by a trial. Written orders of the trial judge are final unless appealed to a three-judge review panel of the Workers’ Compensation Court, or to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. In addition to conducting prehearing and settlement conferences and presiding at trials, judges issue 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 the parties 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. Most workers' comp claims are handled out of court, but in cases of disputed claims, the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Court is responsible for resolving disputes by applying the rules of the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Code (formerly the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Act).  If your workers' compensation claim is in dispute and goes to court, it is important to have representation from a skilled attorney for the best result.