Oklahoma Lawmaker Wants More Money in Workers’ Comp

August 27, 2012

An Oklahoma lawmaker who was awarded more than $61,000 in workers’ compensation for injuries suffered in a collision as he drove to the state Capitol has appealed for more money, while the state House and its insurance carrier asked for the award to be thrown out.

Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City, was awarded $61,560 in July by a workers compensation court judge who agreed that an exception to the state’s workers’ compensation law applies to Christian.

Christian’s attorney, Richard Bell, asked the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court to issue a new order “to adequately compensate” Christian, The Oklahoman reported Saturday.

Most employees are not eligible for workers’ compensation for injuries suffered commuting to or from work, but there’s an exception when an employer pays employees’ travel expenses.

The judge agreed the exception applied to Christian because legislators are entitled to reimbursement for their mileage for one round trip per week to the Capitol. The judge said it applied even though Christian had waived reimbursement.

CompSource Oklahoma, the state House of Representatives’ insurance carrier, claims the exception did not apply because Christian was carpooling with his wife.

“Because claimant was commuting with his wife, who was to continue on to her place of employment in their personal vehicle, he could not have claimed mileage for the trip even if he had not waived his right since the trip did not serve a public purpose,” according to CompSource attorney Kristi Bynum Russell.

The award was the third time Christian has received benefits in workers’ compensation court. The other two times involved injuries suffered while he was a trooper with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

Christian was awarded $9,942 in benefits in 1998 for injuries suffered in 1996 when his patrol car was struck from behind during a traffic stop.

In 2001, Christian was awarded $15,000 in benefits for injuries suffered in both a 1999 turnpike accident and from a 2000 arrest of a suspect.

In the latest accident, Christian testified that he struck a truck whose driver made an illegal U-turn in front of him on Feb. 26, 2009.

“I was kind of knocked goofy,” he said.

The driver of the truck left the scene and has not been found.

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