Work injuries can have a devastating impact on your quality of life and ability to earn a living. If your injuries are severe, your recovery could take several months or longer. You may even have to change careers. Fortunately, Ohio workers’ compensation may help to cover your medical costs, lost income and more. In some cases, workers may also be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit.
If you suffered a work injury, you already know that juggling legal paperwork, finances and deadlines while recovering is difficult. How can you determine if you are eligible for compensation that could help you after a work injury?
At Friedman, Domiano and Smith, we offer free initial consultations to answer your questions and help you learn about your legal options. Our Cleveland work injury lawyers manage complicated injury cases regularly, and we have extensive knowledge of the law.
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Do I Qualify to Recover Compensation After a Work Injury?
If employed and your injury happened while you were performing your job duties, you may qualify for workers’ compensation. It does not matter whether you are a full-time or part-time employee.
Workers’ Comp Claims
Under Ohio state law, employers must provide their employees with worker’s compensation benefits from day one. This requirement applies to any employer or company that employs more than one worker.
In addition to providing multiple levels of temporary and permanent disability benefits, Ohio workers’ compensation covers:
- All related and reasonable medical treatments
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy costs
- Wage loss benefits during your recovery
- Death benefits to a spouse or dependent(s)
Employees who suffer a work injury do not need to prove negligence to be eligible for these benefits. However, they do need to prove the injury happened and arose from doing their job. Even if you partially contributed to the accident that caused your injury, you may still be eligible for benefits. However, strict deadlines apply, and you must apply for workers’ compensation within one year of a work injury and two years of an occupational disease.
Our Cleveland workers’ compensation lawyers are ready to help you file your claim and fight for the benefits you need.
What is the Ohio VSSR Award Under Workers’ Compensation?
In Ohio, some injured workers may be eligible to receive a violation of a specific safety requirement (VSSR) award. This award is in addition to receiving benefits under a workers’ comp claim. However, it is not a lawsuit.
Under state law, employers must provide and maintain a safe work environment. This includes complying with all Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) safety rules. Employers who fail to comply with these safety rules could be assessed with one or more VSSRs.
If a worker’s injury is due to an employer’s VSSR, he or she may be eligible to receive additional compensation. Only the Industrial Commission of Ohio (IC) has the authority to grant VSSR awards as they are assessed as a penalty against the employer.
If awarded, the injured worker could receive between 15 percent and 50 percent over and above the weekly rate granted to a worker. Typically, the percentage awarded ranges between 15 and 20 percent; higher awards are rare. However, the award is based on the state’s maximum weekly rate, regardless of the injured worker’s regular or average weekly rate. The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) pays the award to the worker and then recovers the assessed VSSR from the employer.
How Do Worker’s Prove They Are Eligible for a VSSR?
To prove eligibility, a worker must file a VSSR application (Form IC-8/9) with the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC). This form must be completed and filed right after the workers’ compensation claim, but within two years after the accident occurred. Delayed applications for a VSSR could risk your ability to obtain this additional compensation.
A VSSR award is based on OAC safety codes. These codes are separated into nine categories, based on the type of employment. If your injury was caused by a VSSR, you should document the violation and photograph the hazard at the time of your injury if possible. If you cannot take the picture yourself, either have a witness take it for you, or get their contact details for a statement later. Some employees may try to repair the hazard after your accident and cover up what happened.
Some common examples of VSSRs include:
- Failing to protect workers by installing a fixed safety cover on floor openings
- Neglecting to ensure safety devices are installed on work machinery
- Failing to install sufficient warning signs about known hazards in the workplace
- Neglecting to keep workplace throughways clear of obstacles or other obstructions
- Failing to provide personal protective equipment, such as a safety helmet or goggles, to workers
Pursuing a VSSR award is a complicated legal process. Workers who attempt to file this claim without legal representation are often unsuccessful.
Can I Sue My Employer for a Work Injury?
That depends. Ohio workers’ compensation is a no-fault system that allows workers to seek benefits without having to prove fault. At the same time, this law also protects employers from legal action, so typically you cannot sue either your employer or your co-workers.
That said, there are certain circumstances that may allow workers to sue an employer. An employee may, for instance, be able to file a lawsuit against an employer if he or she:
- Neglected to purchase workers’ compensation insurance as required by law
- Intentionally caused a worker to suffer an occupational disease, work injury, or death
- Deliberately removed safety equipment
- Neglected to provide safety gear
- Purposely presented a hazardous substance in the work environment
- Took risks that were foreseeable or substantially certain to cause a worker harm
If eligible, you could receive both workers’ comp benefits and additional compensation from a personal injury lawsuit. However, trying to prove this type of case on your own is challenging. Our Cleveland work injury lawyers understand state laws and how they apply to complex claims. We are prepared to fight for full and fair compensation on your behalf.
How Do I Know if I Have a Third-Party Lawsuit?
If a third party was somehow involved or responsible for your work injury, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit. Depending on the circumstances, a lawsuit may be in addition to, or instead of a workers’ compensation claim.
Third-party lawsuits could result from:
- Product liability claims: If equipment, machinery, tools or other gear was faulty and led to the accident, the manufacturer or retailer could be liable in a lawsuit.
- Construction site accidents: On a work site, general contractors are responsible for supervising and ensuring safety on the job site. If the general contractor fails to take steps to make the site safe and a subcontractor gets injured, there could be a claim.
- Property owner negligence: If you are working on private property and get injured because of a hazardous condition on the property, you may have a claim against the owner.
- Car crashes while on the job: For example, if you are a construction worker and get injured in a crash while delivering equipment or supplies to another work site. In that situation, you could seek workers’ compensation, because you were working when you were injured. However, if you did not cause the crash, you may also have a third-party lawsuit against the negligent driver.
The circumstances for every work injury case are unique. If you are eligible to bring a personal injury lawsuit, you only have two years from the date of your injury to do so. The most efficient way to learn about your legal options is to speak with a qualified attorney. We offer a completely free legal consultation to discuss your situation and answer your questions.
How Do I Benefit From Hiring an Attorney?
There are many benefits you gain from hiring a qualified attorney, including:
- Experienced attorneys have extensive knowledge of state laws
- A full investigation into the cause of your accident and subsequent injury
- Resources and staff to research all potential sources of compensation
- Full communication about the status of your claim throughout the legal process
- Skilled negotiators fighting for your benefits or maximum compensation
- And more
Whether you are solely eligible for workers’ compensation or you have other legal options, do not leave your claim to chance. Contact our trusted law firm to learn about your legal options in a free, no-risk consultation.
What Should I Do After Suffering a Work Injury?
If you get injured on the job, it is critical that you seek medical help immediately. Stabilizing your injury and protecting your health are always a priority. Once you have been examined and treated, there are several other important steps to take. For instance:
Report Your Work Injury to the BWC
It is important that you follow all guidelines for reporting your injury. Waiting to do so can hurt your chances of getting your claim approved. Delays also give your employer room to argue that your injuries could have happened elsewhere.
Seek Legal Help Immediately
Having legal help from the start can help you to avoid making mistakes that could hurt your claim.
Do Not Sign Any Releases or Other Forms
Be sure to show any release or form you are given to a qualified attorney before you sign it. The insurance company – or your employer – may try to tell you a document is required. However, you could be signing a waiver that denies you from seeking any compensation.
Document What Happened
While the accident is still fresh in your mind, be sure to write down what happened. Important details to document include:
- Time, date and location of the accident (be specific)
- Detail the accident scene and any hazards you remember
- Describe how the accident and your injury occurred
- Write down the names of any witnesses
Common Accidents That Lead to Work Injuries
Work injuries can happen at any type of job, but in certain industries, the risk of a serious accident is higher. Some common injuries in the workplace include:
- Aerial lift injuries
- Constructions site accidents
- Escalator and elevator accidents
- Falling from heights, including scaffolding and roof falls
- Electrocutions and electrical shock
- Explosions and fires
- Exposure to toxic substances or environments
- Farm accidents
- Grain elevator accidents
- Slips, trips and falls
- Vehicle crashes or collisions
- Violence or assault by a worker or third-party
- Struck by a falling object
Even if you are not sure whether your accident qualifies as a work injury, we recommend calling our trusted law firm to discuss your situation.
Call Our Trusted Law Firm After Suffering a Work Injury
Our licensed attorneys at Friedman, Domiano and Smith have been helping injured victims for decades, recovering millions on their behalf. Call our firm anytime, night or day to schedule your free and confidential initial consultation.
There is never any obligation to hire our firm after meeting with us. However, if we represent you, there is also nothing for you to pay up front or while we work on your case. We do not get paid unless we are successful in recovering benefits and/or compensation for you.
You can find our Cleveland office conveniently located block away from the Justice Center.
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