House Bill 81 Brings Changes to Ohio Workers’ Compensation Law

In Labor by Coolidge Wall

Governor DeWine approved House Bill 81, which makes several significant changes to Ohio Workers’ Compensation law. The changes made by the legislation will go into effect on September 14, 2020. Now is the time to familiarize yourself with how these changes will affect your business.

The new statutory language will be set forth in Ohio Revised Code §4123.56(F) and will state, “If an employee is not working or has suffered a wage loss as the direct result of reasons unrelated to the allowed injury or occupational disease, the employee is not eligible to receive compensation under this section.”

Applying the statutory test, courts will rely upon the single important question, “Is the injured worker’s loss of wages caused by the allowed injury or occupational disease or not?” It remains to be seen whether a voluntary abandonment statutory defense will provide more consistency and accuracy in judicial rulings. This change should ensure that injured workers do not receive temporary total disability benefits if their loss of income is unrelated to the allowed conditions in the claim.

In order to best utilize the voluntary abandonment defense, upon receiving a request for a new period of temporary total disability benefits, employers should review the last date the claimant worked for the employer. If the injured worker terminated his or her employment or took a leave of absence for a reason unrelated to the injury, and the employee has not gained new employment at the time of the request for temporary total disability compensation, the employer should assert the statutory voluntary abandonment defense.

Other important changes to the Ohio Workers’ Compensation system include reducing the statute of limitations for filing a Violation of a Specific Safety Requirement (“VSSR”) application from two years to one year from the date of injury, death or diagnosis of an occupational disease. When a VSSR occurs, an injured worker is eligible for an additional award ranging from 15% to 50% of the maximum weekly compensation rate. House Bill 81 cuts in half the mandatory timeline for injured workers to file a claim for a VSSR.

Additionally, House Bill 81 provides that a settlement of state funded claims can no longer be objected to by the state fund employer if both of the following apply: (a) the employee is no longer employed with the employer; and (b) the claim is no longer within the date of impact for the employer’s experience rating.

Other changes made by House Bill 81 to the Ohio Workers’ Compensation system include:

  • Increasing the maximum amount of reimbursable funeral expenses in death claims from $5,500 to $7,500;
  • Changing the date that the Industrial Commission can invoke continuing jurisdiction to the date of medical services provided, rather than date of payment of medical services under the claim; and
  • Expanding the appeal period under Ohio Revised Code §4123.512, in some circumstances, from 60 to 150 days for claims pending on and arising after September 29, 2017.

The Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Coolidge Wall will continue to monitor our clients’ claims and make recommendations regarding proactive claim management. If you have questions regarding how House Bill 81 may impact your business, please contact us for further guidance.

Contributing Attorneys:
Benjamin A. Mazer
Michelle D. Bach

Disclaimer: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail.

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