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If my injury is my employer’s fault, can I sue my employer?

After you are injured at work, you may wonder who is to blame for your injury. It may be a co-worker’s fault, or maybe you think that your employer could have taken steps to prevent your injury. When trying to determine who the culprit is, you may want to know who you can sue to protect your rights. Ohio is considered a “no-fault” workers’ compensation system. This simply means that even if an injured worker is at fault for their injury, they still are permitted to file a workers’ compensation claim. Likewise, if an employer did not take steps to prevent an injury from taking place, an injured worker is limited to benefits as provided through the workers’ compensation system.  

While it may be disappointing to find out that you are not permitted to sue your employer for your injuries, there are other types of benefits that you are entitled to if your employer has failed to follow safety regulations. The Ohio Revised Code states that every Ohio employer is responsible for providing a safe place to work. Under Ohio Law, there are a specific set of safety requirements that employers are required to follow to ensure the safety of their employees. These requirements are codified under Ohio Administrative Code Chapter 4123:1. This section of the Ohio Administrative Code provides a clear and distinct requirements that employers are obligated to follow. These rules are similar in nature to the rules set by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). If you believe that your employer failed to take steps to prevent your injury you may be entitled to a Violation of Specific Safety Regulation award. 

To be entitled to receive an award for Violation of a Specific Safety Regulation (VSSR), a claimant must establish that their injury resulted from the employer’s failure to comply with a specific safety requirement. This award is designed to compensate injured workers for injuries that occurred due to an employer’s failure to follow certain rules enunciated by the legislature. The codes of specific safety requirements are in the Ohio Administrative Code.  These rules are very specific and require injured workers to allege that a specific rule was violated. VSSR is the only area in Ohio workers’ compensation that an employer does have the benefit of the doubt. Thus, if there is any question whether there is a violation, the employer will not be held accountable. 

To establish a basis for a VSSR claim, you must show that an applicable and specific safety requirement was in effect, the employer failed to comply with the specific safety requirement, and the employer’s failure to comply was the proximate cause of the employee’s injury, disease, or death.  If your employer is found to be in violation of a specific safety requirement, the staff hearing officer can assess a penalty ranging from 15 to 50 percent of the maximum worker’s compensation award as established by law.  The current maximum wage can be found here. In addition to the VSSR award, the Industrial Commission is authorized to impose a civil penalty of up to $50,000 against any employer that has had two or more safety violations within a two-year period.  

Common examples of VSSRs include:

  • Exposing workers to harmful or hazardous materials without proper safety equipment or training
  • Failing to maintain equipment
  • Failure to maintain safety guards and barriers
  • Allowing damaged or broken equipment to remain in use

If you want to allege a Violation of a Specific Safety Regulation, you must act quickly. A VSSR claim must be filed within one year of the date of the injury. When filing, you must complete a specific form with the information related to the injury, including the names of witnesses and listing the specific rules you are alleging were violated. In any injury where they are an OSHA investigation performed, a Violation of Specific Safety Regulation should be considered. While the rules are not the same, there is typically something that can be investigated by the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to determine whether a violation has in fact taken place.  

Even though Ohio’s laws do not typically permit a lawsuit against your employer for causing an injury, there are still benefits that should be explored in the context of your workers’ compensation claim. If an injured worker has any questions or concerns with what caused their injury it would always be recommended to consult with an attorney regarding their potential rights for recovery. 

If you have been injured at work and you think that your employer failed to comply with a specific safety requirement, call The Bainbridge Firm to schedule an appointment! 

Please contact our attorneys and schedule a free consultation if you have been injured on the job.

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