OK Supreme Court Rules PPD Deferral Provision Ruled Unconstitutional; AMA Guidelines Cannot be Used on Scheduled Injuries

 

On April 12, 2016 in Maxwell v. Sprint PCS, 2016 OK 41, the Oklahoma Supreme Court found the PPD deferral provision to be unconstitutional and also ruled that the AMA Guides cannot be used to address disability to scheduled members.

 

PPD Deferral Provision Ruled Unconstitutional by Oklahoma Supreme Court

 

The deferral provision provided that PPD benefits awarded to a claimant, except if by settlement,  were to be held in reserve by the employer or insurance carrier if the employee returned back to work.  If the employee refused work that was equivalent to the pre-injury job, the PPD benefits would also be deferred for each week of refusal.  The Court found that this was in violation of the Oklahoma Constitution.  Cases were largely being negotiated rather than tried to avoid this provision and carriers were able to use this as a bargaining strategy to get cases resolved.  This will result in an increase in litigated cases.  

 

AMA Guidelines Cannot be Used on Scheduled Members

 

In the same case, the Court also found that the AMA Guidelines cannot be used to determine disability to "scheduled members" and that scheduled member injuries will not be converted to body as a whole injuries for rating purposes.  Scheduled members are injuries to arms, legs, hands, thumbs, fingers, feet, toes, eyes, hearing loss and testicles.   This will impact the value of these claims bringing them closer to value of injuries prior to the 2014 changes.