Accidents in the workplace that cause injuries and keep employees away from the job, often without pay, create significant problems for workers and their families. That’s why the State of Ohio has a workers’ compensation program to give employees financial help while they cannot do their jobs and to cover their medical costs.
The system was established in 1911 because worker injuries had increased significantly as a result of the rapid industrial expansion of the late 19th century. About two-thirds of Ohio workers today are covered by state workers’ compensation, while the other third is covered by private employer insurance plans that comply with strict state requirements. Ohio has the largest exclusive state workers’ compensation fund in the United States, with approximately $28 billion in assets.
Types of Ohio Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Statistics from 2014 show that the BWC provides significant assistance to injured workers throughout the state. The agency handled 108,549 workers comp claims in 2014, a slight increase of the number handled in 2013. Most of these claims were “medical only” claims that allowed injured workers to receive medical care for on the job injuries, regardless of fault.
The second biggest payment category for BWC payments is compensation for permanent total disability (PTD), paid to workers who have suffered a permanent disability that prevents them from working in any capacity. In addition to benefits paid by the BWC, permanently disabled workers can have their benefits increased according to the annual rate of inflation. These benefit increases are paid from a Disabled Workers’ Relief Fund, which is administered by the BWC.
Other categories of disability payments include:
Scheduled loss (SL). Benefits for a scheduled loss cover amputations and loss of use of limbs, in addition to loss of vision and hearing. This means that even though a worker may be able to do some work, the BWC will provide compensation for the loss of a limb or the loss of sight and hearing. These losses are known as residual damage by the BWC.
Percentage of permanent partial award (%PP). Benefits in this category are paid to workers who have permanent damage short of an amputation, complete loss of use, vision loss or hearing loss. An example of a situation that provides for this type of benefit is a worker who is no longer able to extend his or her arm fully after a broken bone has healed.
Change of occupation award (COA). Workers who have developed silicosis, coal miners’ pneumoconiosis or asbestosis may be entitled to a change of occupation award. Police officers and firefighters may also be eligible for this award if they developed cardiovascular or pulmonary disease.
Wage loss. Wage loss benefits are available to a worker who found work after the injury that pays less than his or her previous position or to those workers who are unable to find work within the medical restrictions imposed after the injury. This benefit is only available for injuries sustained after August 22, 1986.
Facial disfigurement. BWC pays a one-time benefit of up to $10,000 to workers who sustained facial disfigurement to the degree that they will face difficulty obtaining or keeping a job. The award is in addition to other types of disability benefits.
Death. The BWC pays funeral expenses for a deceased worker as well as the medical bills of the deceased worker. The ongoing benefit is two-thirds of the deceased workers average weekly wage, and is payable until two years after the surviving spouse remarries. Children receive death benefits until age 18 or until age 25 if they are in school.
There are other, less frequently paid benefits available to workers injured or made ill on the job, including a benefit that applies when it can be demonstrated that an employer violation caused the injury or illness.
The good news about Ohio Workers’ Compensation is that it is relatively generous compared to many other states. Another piece of good news is that relatively straightforward cases involving a trip to the emergency room and a day or two away from work do not take long to resolve. Your medical bills are paid and you can either receive paid sick leave or compensation from the BWC (if you need to be away from work for more than 14 days).
When is a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer a Good Idea?
However, more complex cases that involve denials, appeals, permanent disability and less frequently used benefits may require the assistance of a lawyer who undertakes such cases. In many instances, attorneys take these cases on a contingency basis, which means that you don’t have to pay them until your case is won or settled.
It’s never a bad idea to hire an attorney for your claim when:
- Your injuries or illness require surgery
- You believe you are unable to work in any job because of your injury
- You had significant pre-existing disabilities that make your case more complex
- Your injuries are severe and you and your doctor believe that you will be unable to recover your full health and functionality
- Your employer, your employer’s insurance com pany, or the Ohio BWC is disputing your claim
Most attorneys who handle workers’ compensation claims will tell you honestly whether they believe you have a case or whether they think you should hire an attorney. If you don’t know whether your case is complicated enough to warrant having a legal advocate, just ask – there is no risk.