After its initial February 19, 2020 introduction to the Ohio House of Representatives, Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 81 into law on June 16, 2020. This Bill detailed several changes which will impact recent Workers’ Compensation claims, as well as those arising in the future. Voted in unanimously by the House and Senate, this Bill is expected to go into effect on or around September 15, 2020. Whether or not these changes affect you depends on the date of injury associated with your claim.
For dates of injury on or after July 1, 2020:
1. Shortened Claim Life
While the specific amount of time the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) considers a claim open for has not decreased, H.B.81 clarified the language describing what keeps a claim active. Currently, a workers’ compensation claim statutorily ends five years from the date of payment of the last medical bill or compensation. The updated language describes a claim ending five years after the last rendered medical service or the last compensation payment. Payments are often made long after the date the injured workers received the medical care in question; this subsequently shortens the potential life of the claim.
For dates of injury on or before September 15, 2020 (estimated):
1. Shortened Statute of Limitations for Filing a VSSR Claim
VSSR stands for “violation of specific safety requirements”. A VSSR claim allows injured workers to assert that employer negligence caused their injury. The negligence must occur in the form of overlooking a specific and applicable safety requirement. The safety requirements are typically outlined by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).
Currently, injured workers have two years from their date of injury to file a VSSR claim. Effective with H.B.81, injured works will have only one year from their date of injury to file such a claim. This law also applies to a date of disability in occupational disease claims.
2. Additional Occupations Considered for Compensation
The Ohio Revised Code currently contains provisions for firefighters, emergency medical workers, and peace officers to receive compensation if exposed to and harmed by blood, bodily fluids, drugs, and other chemical substances while working. H.B.81 extended this to include correctional officers as well as other detention facility personnel. This entitled compensation specifically refers to the coverage of post-exposure medical diagnostic services.
3. Voluntary Abandonment
This widely debated doctrine, which has resulted in multiple cases heading to the Supreme Court, refers to the idea that an injured worker may not be entitled to certain types of compensation if they’ve left or been fired from their job near or on the date of their injury. It is assumed in this doctrine that the injured worker’s wage loss is due to their voluntary abandonment, and not their injury.
This was exemplified in Klein v. Precision Excavating & Grading Co., when an employee suffered an injury after informing his employer of resignation, but before the resignation was carried out. This argument is typically seen in filings for temporary total compensation, where an injured worker receives compensation because they are unable to work their regular job duties.
In an attempt to clarify the confusion surrounding voluntary abandonment, H.B.81 simply added, “If an employee is unable to work or suffers a wage loss as the direct result of an impairment arising from an injury or occupational disease, the employee is entitled to receive compensation under this section, provided the employee is otherwise qualified.” This language provides a broader argument for employers to allege there is no connection between the injured worker’s request for compensation and the injury.
4. Contention of Settlements
H.B.81 added a subsection which prohibits employers from withdrawing from settlement agreements with the injured worker during the thirty day waiting period. This is only applicable so long as the injured worker is no longer working for the employer, and if the claim in question is no longer actively impacting the employer’s insurance premiums.
If you have questions about how these changes may affect your claim, contact us for a free consultation by calling (419) 350-8277 or messaging us. Our knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorneys are happy to discuss your current WC claim, or help you file a new claim.
Am. Sub. H. B. No. 81, 133rd G.A. (Ohio 2020)
Bugbee & Conkle, LLP. (2020). Changes Coming to Ohio Workers’ Compensation as Ohio House Bill 81 is Signed into Law. Retrieved July, 17 2020
Nwajei and Johnson. (June 25, 2020). HOUSE BILL 81 BRINGS CHANGES TO OHIO’S WORKERS’ COMPENSATION LAW. Retrieved July 17, 2020
Perry, Brian P. (October 18, 2018) The Ohio Supreme Court Expands and Clarifies the Voluntary Abandonment Doctrine. Retrieved July, 17 2020