Q: Why do we have workers’ compensation?
A: Early in the 20th century, our increasingly industrialized state recognized that the common law system for compensating victims of work-related injuries did not suit the needs of a modern society. A new system—a no-fault workers’ compensation system—replaced the fault-oriented system. Workers no longer had to sue to recover for industrial injuries, but would receive swift and certain compensation irrespective of fault. Instead of lump sum payments that might be awarded in lawsuits, injured workers would receive legislatively prescribed benefits designed to address the particular type of loss.
Q: What is the basic form of workers’ compensation benefit?
A: The benefit that replaces the immediate loss arising from an injury is called temporary total disability compensation (TTD). As with most forms of compensation, TTD benefits are paid as a percentage of the injured worker’s average earnings (usually two-thirds), subject to a maximum weekly rate. If you are an injured worker in Ohio, you would receive TTD when you are unable to return to your regular job or offered work and when you have not yet returned to work, but your disability remains temporary.
Q: I was injured at work. What if I cannot return to my former job, but must accept a lower-paying job?
A: You may qualify for a form of compensation called wage loss compensation to address this loss. Wage loss benefits are payable for up to four years at two-thirds of the difference between your after-injury earnings and your average wage.
Q: What happens if I need to be retrained?
A: You may need to acquire new skills to return to the workforce. Not only are the costs of vocational rehabilitation paid for under workers’ compensation, but you may also qualify to receive a form of compensation similar to TTD called living maintenance while you are being retrained. If you have completed your rehabilitation, but must take a lower-wage job, you may also be eligible for another type of wage loss compensation.
Q: What if I can never return to work?
A: If you are permanently removed from the workforce by an injury, then you may be entitled to lifetime benefits called permanent total disability compensation (PTD). To receive this compensation, you must demonstrate that you are no longer able to perform any sustained remunerative employment. If you suffer serious losses, such as the loss of use of both legs, you also may be eligible for PTD, even though you may be working.
Q: What happens if my spouse dies as a result of a work-related injury?
A: You, as the surviving spouse, would receive compensation for life or until you remarry. Any children you may have would also receive benefits (generally until age 18, the age of majority, but these benefits may be extended under certain circumstances). The weekly benefit amount would be apportioned among your spouse’s survivors.
Q: Might I be able to receive compensation for "pain and suffering" related to my work injury?
A: No, but there is a benefit that is unrelated to economic loss called a permanent partial disability award (PPD). PPD compensates you for impairment to or loss of a body part. There are two forms of PPD. One compensates you for the percentage of impairment caused by the injury, and the other compensates you for the loss of a body part according to a schedule set in the workers’ compensation statutes.
Q: If I have a workers’ compensation claim, can I choose to settle it by taking a lump sum?
A: Yes. Claims may be settled in whole or in part in Ohio. However, because the Ohio system is designed to address an injured worker’s needs at different times after a claim is filed, many workers choose not to settle because of the years of protection that the Ohio system provides.
This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by Robert A. Minor, an attorney and principal with the Columbus office of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP. Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.