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OHIO’S INJURY & SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY FIRM Workers' Compensation - Social Security Disability - Personal Injury

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The Monthly HMMM... Am I Suing My Employer When I Hire a Workers' Comp Attorney?

March 30, 2020 by Steven D. Maas
Injured worker filing for workers compensation claim.

You have probably heard the term “workers’ compensation” before – even if you have never previously needed to file a claim. However, you may have many questions about what it means to file a workers’ compensation claim. You may wonder if filing a workers’ compensation claim amounts to suing your employer.

The short answer is: No. When you hire a workers’ compensation attorney and file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, you are not suing your employer. Instead, you are seeking benefits through a system that was designed to actually spare you the hassle and complications that filing a lawsuit could possibly involve, including the cost and the need to establish that your employer or a co-worker was at fault.

What Happens When You File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

The first step after you are injured is you need to report the accident to your employer in accordance with their  policies. If at all possible do this in writing . The second step would be to seek immediate medical care.  The longer you wait to get treated the tougher it may be to prove your injury happened at work.  The next step after that is to file a formal workers’ compensation claim. In Ohio, this claim is known as a First Report of Injury Occupational Disease or Death (FROI). You file the FROI with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC).

The BWC will issue you a claim number so you can track its progress. A BWC specialist will review your claim and issue a decision on whether to allow or deny your claim within 28 days. During this time, the specialist may ask you for additional information regarding your workers’ comp claim and request access to your medical records.

Man encoding workers compensation application form.If the specialist denies your claim, or if your employer disagrees with a decision to award workers’ compensation benefits, you can appeal. In an appeal, a hearing officer with the Ohio Industrial Commission will review your claim. You could actually go through multiple hearings before different levels of the Commission. At the end of this process, either you or your employer may even further appeal a decision to the local Court of Common Pleas.

So, what are the actual workers’ compensation benefits you can receive? In all cases, workers’ compensation covers certain medical expenses. You may also receive “temporary total disability” (TTD) replacement benefits if your injury or illness forces you to miss work for eight or more days. (If you are out for at least 14 consecutive days, you are entitled to TTD for all missed days.)

These disability benefits do not cover all of your lost wages. Instead, you will receive up to 72 percent of your pre-disability gross wages for the first 12 weeks that you miss and up to two-thirds after 12 weeks. These number should be close to your take home pay.  Ohio law places a cap on the maximum benefit you can receive. Currently, it is $980 per week.

In some cases, you may be able to work after an accident – but only in a reduced capacity. In these situations, workers’ compensation may cover up to two-thirds of the difference between what you earned before and after your disability. Different types of benefits may also be  available if a doctor determines that you suffer from a permanent partial or total disability.

Can You Ever Sue Your Employer for a Work-Related Injury or Illness?

Workers’ compensation is designed to provide “no-fault” benefits. In other words, you can receive benefits regardless of who was responsible for your injury or illness. However, in exchange for receiving these benefits, you normally cannot sue your employer for your injury or illness. In legal terms, workers’ compensation benefits serve as your “exclusive remedy.”

With that said, the exclusive remedy rule has a few exceptions. For example, if your injury was the result of an intentional act by your employer, as opposed to an accident, you may still be able to sue your employer directly in civil court. To be clear, the act must have been intentionally designed to hurt you as opposed to mere negligence.

Can You Sue Someone Besides Your Employer If You Get Hurt or Ill at Work?

Workers’ compensation applies only to potential claims against your employer. It does not cover any third parties whose negligence may have caused or contributed to your condition. For instance, if you are injured in a warehouse accident caused by a defective forklift, workers’ compensation would not prevent you from filing a product liability lawsuit against the forklift’s manufacturer. Similarly, if you are injured in an auto accident while driving your employer’s delivery vehicle, you could still file a lawsuit against the other driver.

If you recover damages from a third-party lawsuit, you may need to pay back any workers’ compensation benefits that you previously received. Under Ohio law, BWC has what are known as “subrogation” rights. In other words, the BWC has the right of recovery from a third person, party, or insurance company for the cost of benefits paid on behalf of the injured worker. Basically, you are not allowed to receive compensation twice for the same injury – first from workers’ compensation, and then from a third-party lawsuit.

How Can an Ohio Workers’ Compensation Attorney Help You?

The main reason to work with an Ohio workers’ compensation lawyer is that the lawyer will help level the playing field for you. Both your employer and the BWC have experienced lawyers representing their interests. They have the knowledge and experience that an average worker lacks when it comes to the law.

Hiring a lawyer does not mean that you are looking for a fight. What it does mean is that you are taking the workers’ compensation process seriously. In the days and weeks following a work-related injury or occupational illness, the last thing you want to do is figure out how to navigate the legal system on your own.

Get Help for Your Ohio Workers’ Compensation Claim Today

For injured workers in the Northeast Ohio , Heller, Maas, Moro, & Magill Co., LPA, is the worker’s compensation law firm that can deliver the care and knowledge they need. When you work with our firm, our goal will be to get you back to work on your own terms and secure all the benefits that you deserve. To discuss how we can assist you, contact us today and schedule a free consultation.  This may be completed by phone appointment at this time.

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