Oklahoma Court Affirms Employer’s Right to Choose Provider in Workers’ Comp Case

May 17, 2017

An Oklahoma civil appeals court ruled in favor of an employer and its insurer in affirming an order by the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission, asserting an employer’s right to direct the medical treatment of an injured worker where it lacks knowledge of injury.

According to court documents, the claimant was injured at work on September 10,2015. On October 15, 2015, the claimant filed his formal notice of claim alleging injury to the left shoulder and neck. During treatment for the shoulder, the claimant did complain of neck; however, subsequent tests did not show any diagnosis related to the neck. On November 24, 2015, the employer admitted the shoulder injury, but denied the neck injury.

The employer and its insurer, represented by the law firm of Adelson, Testan, Brundo, Novell & Jimenez, relied on an initial diagnosis that didn’t reveal one of two job-related injuries (involving the shoulder and neck) sustained by a worker that arose from a single incident.

When a subsequent diagnosis revealed the neck injury, the injured worker sought to choose his own physician for related treatment. An administrative law judge ruled in favor of the employee, but that decision was overturned by the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission, which affirmed the employer’s right to direct the treatment.

The court’s analysis relied on the interpretation of Oklahoma’s Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act, 85 O.S. 50 (B) “In order for an injured worker to be able to choose the physician the following must occur: (1) The employer must have “actual knowledge” of an injury; (2) The date on which employer has received “actual knowledge” must be established; and, (3) The “actual knowledge” date triggers a five day period for employer to provide medical treatment. Then, if “the employer fails or neglects to provide medical treatment within five (5) days after actual knowledge is received of an injury, the injured employee may select a physician to provide medical treatment at the expense of the employer.”

According to the court’s analysis, there was no indication of a neck injury prior to a February 2016 EMG.

In the case before the appellate court, Edward E. Bray, petitioner v. Precofacet Houston, LLC, Travelers Indemnity Co. of America and the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission (Docket #115,209), Hon. Keith Rapp ruled in favor of the employer and its insurer.

“The Bray decision reinforces the Oklahoma legislature’s intent that the employer has the right to choose the injured worker’s treating physician even when a previously denied injury is found compensable,” said Jill Fidelie, managing partner, Adelson, Testan, Brundo, Novell & Jimenez in Oklahoma City.

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