Ohio’s workers’ compensation system provides a wide range of benefits to workers injured on the job. Some of those benefits provide money to workers whose injuries prevent them from returning to work. These disability benefits represent a critically important feature of the workers’ comp system. They provide an essential safety net for Ohioans who have suffered work-related tragedy.
Unfortunately, some people see the workers’ comp system not as the important social good it is, but instead as a target for fraud. Recent news stories highlight the drain that workers’ compensation fraud puts on the system, weakening its protections for needy employees by, in effect, stealing from Ohio employers.
About Workers’ Comp Fraud
The most common form of workers’ comp fraud occurs when someone collects disability benefits while not actually being fully disabled.
In one recent case, a federal court sentenced a Cleveland man to seven months in prison and ordered him to pay $246,000 in restitution to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) and to the Social Security Administration. Prosecutors alleged he had collected full disability benefits while also working as a general contractor. The man had tried to conceal his income by asking his customers to pay him in cash.
In another recent case, a Logan County judge ordered a man to pay nearly $6,400 in restitution to the BWC when it was found he had been working at a horse farm while also collecting disability benefits from his former employer, Rent-a-Center.
Other Workers’ Comp Fraud Schemes
“Double dipping” is not the only type of workers’ comp fraud by employees, however. According to the BWC, other schemes include diverting prescribed narcotics to others, deceiving medical providers to obtain multiple prescriptions or exaggerated diagnoses, and lying about the origin of an injury.
Unfortunately, Employers Defraud the System Too
Nor are employees the only Ohioans who have been found to commit workers’ comp fraud. The BWC also reports that employers have also been known to defraud the system by failing to carry workers’ comp coverage, using a false workers’ comp insurance certificate to win a bid, and underreporting its payroll. Employers who defraud the workers’ comp system put employees at risk and compete unfairly with employers who follow the law. Medical providers have also been accused of workers’ comp fraud. In August 2018, an Akron pain doctor pleaded guilty to workers’ comp fraud for billing the BWC for services he never rendered to patients, while in November 2018, a Springfield nurse practitioner pleaded guilty to drug trafficking for writing pain medicine prescriptions without a proper license.
What To Do if You Suspect Workers’ Comp Fraud
If you suspect workers’ comp fraud is occurring, either as an employee, an employer or as a medical provider, the BWC makes it easy to report your suspicions anonymously online or via its tip line. Before reaching out to the BWC, however, you may first want to speak with an experienced Ohio workers’ comp attorney. An attorney can help you determine whether your suspicions are valid, and can coordinate your outreach to the BWC to protect your legal rights and anonymity. A skilled workers’ comp lawyer can also help you determine whether you have any potential legal exposure to a claim you have committed workers’ comp fraud, and how to ensure your own compliance going forward.
Your Ohio Workers’ Comp Attorneys
Dworken & Bernstein is a full-service law firm representing clients throughout Northeast Ohio. Our experienced, sophisticated lawyers routinely represent workers and businesses in all manner of workers’ comp-related matters, including addressing issues concerning fraud and abuse.
If you have concerns about potential workers’ compensation fraud in Ohio, contact our team today to schedule a free consultation.
The information presented in this post is not legal advice and does not form a lawyer/client relationship. Laws and circumstances can differ and change.
Please contact us for a personal review of your situation