Q: I was injured while at work and want workers’compensation benefits. What do I do?
A: Regardless of the severity of the injury and regardless of whether you plan to file a workers’ compensation claim, immediately let your employer know about your injury. If needed, seek medical attention. If you want to apply for benefits from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) system, let your employer know of this also. Your employer will likely give you a claim form to fill out. If not, you will need to visit the BWC’s website to fill out and submit the First Report of Injury (FROI) form. Your filing a claim does not mean that you are suing your employer. Your employer cannot retaliate against you for filing a claim.
Once your form is submitted to the BWC, you will receive a claim number. Receiving a claim number does not guarantee that you will receive benefits. It only means that your claim has been filed. You must put this number on every document you give to the BWC. After receiving your claim form, the BWC may make an initial determination on your claim or it may arrange for a hearing with the Industrial Commission.
Q: What is the Industrial Commission?
A: The Industrial Commission is the entity in charge of administering the hearings and appeals of claims. Hearings will typically take place before one hearing officer. A representative from your employer may be present. You are permitted to have an attorney represent you at the hearing. You and any other involved parties will be given an opportunity to present their arguments. Parties who are unhappy with the hearing officer’s decision have the right to appeal the decision. You should direct questions regarding hearings or appeals to the Industrial Commission. All other issues with your claim should be directed to the BWC. Neither the BWC nor the Industrial Commission can give legal advice.
Q: Can I file a claim even if my injury was my fault?
A: Yes. The Ohio Workers’ Compensation system is a no-fault system. This means that benefits are not determined by looking at who was at fault for the injury. The BWC and the Industrial Commission will give the same consideration to your claim, regardless of whether the employer is at fault, you are at fault, or no one is at fault.
Q: If my injury is my employer’s fault, can I sue my employer?
A: Generally, no, except in rare circumstances. Ohio law gives employers immunity from lawsuits by their employees for on-the-job injuries in exchange for the employers’ participation in the BWC system. This immunity protects your employer even if you do not file a workers’ compensation claim, so if you hope to be compensated for your injury, you must file a claim.
Q: What kind of injury can I file a claim on?
A: You can file a claim on almost any injury that occurred while you were on the job. An injury that occurred outside work cannot be compensated unless the condition was substantially aggravated by a work-related event. There are some exclusions on the types of injuries you can receive benefits on, including injuries that occurred while you were intoxicated or injuries you intentionally inflicted upon yourself.
Q: What benefits are available to me?
A: If your claim is allowed, the benefits available to you entirely depend upon the type of injury you sustained and whether the BWC recognizes your injury as arising out of and being sustained in the course of your employment. Workers’ Compensation benefits are available to pay medical bills related to your injuries that are allowed as a part of your claim and compensation for lost income. If your doctor certifies that you are temporarily and totally disabled, permanently and partially disabled or permanently and totally disabled, compensation (typically two-thirds of your wages) may be available.
Q: Where can I find more information?
A: For more information about the BWC, visit: www.ohiobwc.com/worker. For more information about the Industrial Commission and the hearings/appeals process, check out the fact sheets available at www.ohioic.com/news/factsheets.html. Of course, you may also obtain more information by contacting an attorney.
This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association, and updated by attorney Brian P. Perry of Dinsmore & Shohl LLP in Cincinnati.