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Do I Need to File a Workers’ Comp Claim if I’m Unable to Work for a Short Time?

“Workers’ compensation” is a phrase that makes many people think of serious injuries that leave workers unable to do their jobs for months, years, or even the rest of their lives. However, not all workplace injuries result in extended periods of disability. Sometimes, workers miss only a couple of weeks of work, or even just a few days.

Because so many workers in Oklahoma live paycheck to paycheck, missing even a few weeks or days of work can be financially devastating. But many injured workers don’t file for workers’ compensation because they’ve been (possibly incorrectly) told by their employers that their injuries aren’t serious enough or because they don’t think they’ve missed enough time on the job to qualify for benefits.

If you were recently injured on the job and are expected to miss only a short time at work, here’s what you need to know about workers’ compensation in Oklahoma.

You Must Be Out of Work for At Least 8 Days to Qualify for Benefits

To be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits in Oklahoma, your work-related injury or illness must prevent you from working for at least eight consecutive days, including the day you were injured and weekends. That means that if you get injured on a Monday and have to leave work, you won’t be eligible for benefits if you’re able to return to work on or before the Tuesday of the following week.

You Can Receive Benefits for Your First 7 Days Off the Job if You’re Ruled Disabled for More Than 21 Days

If the Workers’ Compensation Court determines that you were disabled for between eight and 21 days when you’re approved for workers’ compensation benefits, your first seven days off the job will go unpaid by workers’ compensation. However, if the Court determines you’re disabled for more than 21 days, you can receive benefits going back to the first day you missed work due to your work-related injury or illness.

You Can Receive Benefits for Up to 156 Weeks While Recovering

If you are expected to recover from your work-related injury or illness but are unable to work until you do, you can continue receiving workers’ compensation benefits for up to 156 weeks. However, soft tissue injuries have shorter timeframes for eligibility. According to the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court, benefits for disabling injuries such as sprains, strains, contusions, and muscle tears may be limited to just eight weeks of compensation. Contact one of our lawyers to discuss your potential claim in more detail.

You Must Report Your Injury within 30 Days and Apply for Benefits within 2 Years of Your Injury or Illness

To be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, you’re required to report your injury or illness to your employer within 30 days of it happening. If you wait longer than that, your application may not be valid or admissible.

After informing your employer of your injury or illness, you’re eligible to apply for workers’ compensation benefits for up to two years from the date the injury or illness occurred. However, you should apply for benefits ASAP after a disabling injury or illness.

The sooner you apply for benefits, the sooner you can get the money you need to replace your lost wages, and the better your chances of getting your application approved.

Your Replacement Wages Are Capped at 70% of Your Average Weekly Wages

Workers’ compensation benefits don’t cover 100% of your lost paychecks while you’re out of work. Instead, they cover 70% of average weekly wages until they reach their maximum payout, which is currently $953.18 per week (as of 2022) for temporary total disability and $360 for permanent partial disability. This amount usually increases every year to match the cost of living and inflation.

You Can Use Disability Benefits or Paid Time Off for a Short-Term Injury

If you’re out of work for less than eight days after a work-related injury or illness, you have two options to continue receiving income:

  • Use your vacation days, sick days, or paid-time off (PTO) to account for the days you’ll be out of work.
  • Use your short-term disability insurance, if you’re covered by your employer or if you purchased a separate, private policy on your own. Note that short-term disability insurers have varying minimum time off for policyholders to be eligible for benefits, with some policies ranging from one day and others going up to 14 days or more.

We Can Help with Your Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Application or Appeal

Workers’ compensation in Oklahoma is a necessary and highly beneficial system for workers who become temporarily or permanently disabled while on the job. However, it’s not the most user-friendly system, and countless applications are denied or left unsent due to the many hoops that injured workers must jump through to get approved.

At Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers, we work hard to help our clients get the benefits they’re owed, whether they’re applying for the first time or appealing the Court’s decision. Contact us today if you need assistance with your application or appeal. Our Oklahoma workers’ compensation lawyers have years of experience with every step of the process, and we know what it takes to achieve success.