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Oklahoma Supreme Court Rules on AMA Guides

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By Joseph C. Biscone and Emily J. Biscone

On June 26, 2018, the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission’s mandatory use of AMA Guides 6th Edition as directed by the Oklahoma Legislature.

The high court decided, 5-4, in Robert Hill v. American Medical Response, 2018 OK 57, that the mandatory use of AMA Guides 6th Edition was lawful in determining an injured workers’ impairment for all injuries involving a spine, hip, or shoulder.

The AMA Guides set impairment guidelines, which a physician must follow in assessing physical impairment. These impairment ratings are then converted to compensation rates for injured workers. However, these rates are often much lower than what a worker truly needs and deserves to make up for his or her injuries.

As a reminder, injured workers are not able to recover lost earning potential, pain and suffering and other damages in Oklahoma. An injured worker is stuck with the impairment confines of the AMA Guides. The 6th Edition is the strictest, most unreasonable guidelines to be published by the AMA.

What does this mean for injured Oklahomans?

In summary, the decision was not favorable to workers. This directly affects the monetary recovery in almost every workers’ compensation case. It will have an impact on every injury involving a spine, neck, hip, or shoulder.

We, along with other claimants’ lawyers, do not agree with this decision. A petition for rehearing has been filed and we will be pursuing it aggressively.

Injured workers need us now more than ever. Insurance companies will try to force a stringent interpretation of this decision upon workers who are not represented by counsel. They will tell workers they have no choice but to accept any final offers presented, otherwise they will forfeit recovery.

Workers do have a choice, and their rights depend on it. They must hire a team that fights for workers and can argue the nuances of the Hill case.

Johnson & Biscone will keep a close eye on further developments. The fight is not over, and we will continue to go to bat for the rights of working Oklahomans.

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