When you’re seriously injured in a car accident or trip on a loose floorboard in a local business, the path to compensation for your injuries typically involves a personal injury lawsuit. Pursuing compensation for a work injury is different. Nearly all work injury claims fall under Ohio’s workers’ compensation law, rather than general personal injury law. That means a different process, a difference in some of the evidence required, and a difference in the type and amount of compensation available.
What is Workers’ Compensation?
The Ohio workers’ compensation system was designed to ensure that injured workers have access to medical care and other compensation after a work injury. When workers’ compensation functions properly, it has benefits for both the worker and the employer. For example:
- The worker has faster and easier access to medical care and other benefits
- The worker does not have to determine who was responsible and prove negligence to recover
- The mandate that the employer carries workers’ compensation insurance ensures that there are funds available to compensate the worker
- The employer is insulated from absorbing the full cost of the compensation by worker’s compensation insurance
- There is no personal injury litigation to sour the relationship between employee and employer
In the vast majority of cases, workers’ compensation is an exclusive remedy for the injured worker. That means that, except under very limited circumstances, the employee cannot file a personal injury case against his or her employer for a work injury.
How is Workers’ Compensation Different from a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Imagine that a man slips and falls on the freshly-mopped floor of a local grocery store, sustaining serious injuries.
If the injury victim is a shopper and the store doesn’t voluntarily provide adequate compensation, his next step will typically be to file a personal injury lawsuit. To win his case against the grocery store and secure compensation, the shopper will have to prove that the store was negligent and that he was injured because of that negligence. Simply proving that he fell in the store is not enough.
If the shopper can establish that the store negligently caused his injuries, a wide range of possible compensation may be available to him. But, he will have to prove each harm that he suffered and its monetary value. The personal injury case may take months, or even years, to resolve. During that time, the injured shopper may receive little or no compensation.
However, if the injured party is a store employee who was stocking shelves at the time he slipped and fell, Ohio workers’ compensation law applies. That means no personal injury lawsuit, and no need to prove negligence. The process is streamlined, and a decision as to whether to approve or deny the claim must be reached within 28 days of submission.
Of course, that initial determination doesn’t address all issues—it is often far too soon to assess the extent of the injured worker’s injuries, the duration of any physical limitations, or whether he has sustained permanent losses. However, medical care and other benefits such as temporary total disability are available in the interim.
Why Hire a Workers Compensation Lawyer?
The workers’ compensation process is designed to be worker-friendly, so it may not be immediately obvious why a person who has sustained a serious work injury would want to hire an attorney. Some of the problems you may encounter in a workers’ compensation case include:
- Denial of your claim
- A delay in payment of benefits
- Undervaluing your claim
- Failure to respond appropriately to work limitations
While you could wait until problems arise to connect with an experienced workers compensation attorney, correcting a problem is often more difficult and time-consuming than avoiding the problem. When you work with one of our attorneys to pursue a work injury claim, we will thoroughly assess and prepare your claim to minimize the chances of denial or delay. And, if problems do arise, we will have the evidence, experts, and legal analysis in hand to promptly and effectively fight back.
If you’re recovering from a work injury, the last thing you need is the added stress and complication of trying to educate yourself about the workers’ compensation process and advocate for yourself. Schedule a free consultation to learn more about how Dworken & Bernstein can help you.