by Andrew Bainbridge | Aug 28, 2020 | General Information
Filing a workers’ compensation claim is not a process that most people are familiar with. After all, getting injured on the job is not a circumstance most employees would like to dwell on. Unfortunately, rates of injury around the United States show that almost three out of every 100 workers’ will need to consider how to handle an injury on the job. If you reside and work in the state of Ohio, any workers’ compensation lawyer in Columbus will tell you that you going into an employment situation with a basic understanding of how to file a workers’ comp claim is a must. Moreover, as you go through the process, you will definitely want to avoid making these ten most common mistakes an injured worker makes when filing for workers’ compensation.
Don’t wait to see if your injury gets better.
Not filing a workers’ compensation claim right away is a serious mistake. Many employees are afraid of losing pay, losing their job, or rocking the boat with their employer. They may also just feel that filing a claim is a hassle—and so they choose to wait it out and see if their injury heals on its own. This can be incredibly misleading, as an injury may have created internal complications they can’t see. Of course, failure to address an injury is not possible with an acute emergency or incident, but even in these cases, an employee may delay in filing their claim because they are intimidated by the workers’ compensation process.
Don’t let an employer talk you out of filing.
Letting an employer talk you out of filing a workers’ compensation claim is also a serious mistake, and it’s also not legal on the part of your employer. They are required to furnish you with the paperwork for initiating your claim. However, workers’ compensation is a type of insurance, and like any type of insurance, premiums go up when the insurer has to make a payout. Your employer may not want to deal with the cost or hassle of this claim, or the stress of finding a replacement employee. Don’t let them talk you out of your rights by offering paid vacation time, covering your medical expenses, or even threatening your job security.
Don’t assume you will file your claim later.
The statute of limitations in Ohio vis-a-vis filing workers’ compensation is one year. If your injury does not result in an acute emergency, and you are still interested in initiating a claim, you may be tempted to delay filing if you are busy with work or personal matters. But a year can go buy quicker than you think. Moreover, you may be considered negligent about proactively seeking treatment, which will not help your case should there be some arbitration or litigation that later becomes necessary. If a disease or chronic condition is discovered some time later in life, you have only six months from diagnosis to file the claim, or two years from the date that condition prevented you from continuing work. In these situations, it can become much easier to let history remain history and resume your life without filing…but you don’t want to wait and let life—and the statute of limitations—pass you by.
Don’t let yourself get steered to a particular doctor.
If you’re hurt on the job in the state of Ohio, you can see any doctor you’d like for your first visit, per recent revisions to the rules around workers’ comp and as of 2020. That means any doctor you choose is acceptable for examining your condition. You do not have to let yourself be steered to a medical practitioner selected by your employer, or even recommended, who may carry a conflict of interest in terms of providing you with the most honest diagnosis. After that first visit, however, if you require other visits to facilitate filing your case, you must select a doctor approved by the BWC—but that means you are still able to select your own doctor.
Don’t assume you can’t get a second opinion.
A medical professional’s opinion can carry a lot of weight, and certainly with the patient consulting them. But you are not required to accept their opinion as conclusive. True, per the rules around workers’ comp claims in Ohio, any subsequent doctor you visit in relation to your filed claim must be approved by the BWC, but you can still seek a different medical opinion. You may even consider selecting a doctor outside the scope of BWC approval if you will be skipping workers’ compensation and heading straight to litigation. But regardless of your action plan, don’t assume that the opinion of the first doctor you visit is set in stone.
Don’t hold back from appealing a decision you don’t like.
Dealing with anything bureaucratic can seem daunting to most people. When the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation renders their decision, it can be easy to just accept that notification letter as final. But don’t forget that instructions to make an appeal are right on the letter itself! You will have just 14 days to file your appeal online via the Industrial Commission Online Network (ICON) or by submitting a written Notice of Appeal (Form IC-12) to the nearest branch of Industrial Commission. Within 45 days you’ll have a District Level Hearing where you can typically present your case in person, along with any supporting evidence. However, with COVID-19 circumstances, the process may be affected. Contact a workers’ compensation attorney to learn how this process may have temporarily changed.
And don’t hold back again if the appeal doesn’t work out.
After a hearing, you receive a written notice from the presiding officer within seven days. If you don’t agree with their decision, you can appeal the decision once again, bringing your claim to a Staff Level Hearing. And believe it or not, if that hearing doesn’t go the way you’d like it to go, you can once again appeal and attempt to bring your claim to the highest hearing level, The Commission Level. However, a Commission Level Hearing is not necessarily guaranteed, as the Commission may decline to review your case. Still, you are able to file a complaint and notice of appeal intro the common pleas court of the county.
Don’t accept a settlement without your attorney.
Once your claim gets approved, it can be easy to rest on your laurels and collect what’s yours. But you may want to take a second look for room to negotiate the settlement that works best for your recovery and future. Along with your Ohio workers compensation attorney you can negotiate a settlement structure that would cover permanent partial disability, permanent total disability or past-due temporary disability and medical treatments. You will want your attorney to review the wording of the settlement to ensure you get the maximum compensation for your work injury.
Don’t go back to work too soon.
Consult regularly with your BWC approved medical professional regarding when to return to work. Keep to your follow up appointments and follow their directives regarding treatment. Remember that after your 12 weeks of temporary disability pay runs out, you can still collect two-thirds of your weekly wage, up to $980 per week, for a longer period of time—and in some cases, even indefinitely (please note that this rate only applies to 2020, as each year has a different rate).. Do not feel rushed or pressured about going back to work, either from an internal sense of wanting to be productive or because of pleading or threats from your employer.
Don’t pass up exploring other options.
It’s easy to assume that workers’ compensation is your only option, but there are also other possibilities. You may pursue litigation against your employer if they didn’t provide workers’ compensation coverage. Consulting a Columbus work injury attorney can help you assess that possibility. There may also be other options such as collecting SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) from the Federal Government. Again, it’s important to consult your options with a competent Columbus work Injury lawyer who can review your specific case with you and provide recommendations about the best course of action. Above all, don’t assume you need to handle it on your own.
A final word about workers’ comp claim mistakes:
A good workers’ compensation lawyer in Columbus, Ohio, like the ones at Bainbridge Law Firm, can help you navigate the entire process of filing for workers’ compensation. They will help you stay on track with meeting the deadlines for the paperwork, selecting the best doctor for you, and providing the BWC with the requisite information they need to address your case fairly. In instances where the decision of the BWC does not align with what you need as an injured employee now bereft of income, a Columbus work injury lawyer can also help you navigate the appeals process, represent you at hearings, and assist you in deciding if litigation against your employer or others involved in your injury or condition might be the best course of action.
Remember that you don’t need to be a cop, firefighter, or construction worker in order to face the possibility of workplace injury; falls, slips, and strains can also happen in a context as mundane as an office with ceiling tiles, carpet, and fluorescent lighting. No injury is too big or too small for Ohio workers’ compensation, so don’t let the severity of your injury influence whether or not you file for compensation. Make sure to protect yourself and get familiar with the mistakes you’ll want to avoid, should you need to file a claim.
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