In my experience, there are three things that, if not done properly or not done at all, greatly increase the odds that your Ohio workers compensation claim will be contested. A contested claim means the time it takes for your claim to be approved, treatment authorized and compensation paid is increased significantly — by weeks, if not months.
First, Report the Injury to Your Employer in Writing
Regardless of the severity of your injury, even if you aren’t sure whether you even intend to claim workers’ compensation, report the injury immediately to your employer–and do it in writing! It’s hard to overstate how often an employee, often for understandable reasons, fails to report an injury or merely mentions it in passing to a co-worker or shift supervisor. It may be that the employee who feels a pull or “pop” in her back when lifting or moving a box or basket of goods thinks “oh, well, my shift’s almost over, I’m sure it’ll be better tomorrow”. Or perhaps the incident occurs on a Friday afternoon before a long weekend, a scheduled vacation or plant shutdown. Plus, maybe the pain doesn’t seem too bad and who wants to be seen as a whiner by the boss?
What’s the problem with this approach? Well, many if not most employers make a big deal of emphasizing to their employees that work injuries are to be reported–at once! While this isn’t a legal requirement (workers in Ohio actually have 2 years to file a claim), the emphasis on reporting injuries, often accompanied by the employee signing paperwork at the time of hiring verifying that she’s been advised to report injuries when they happen, and the failure to do so understandably raises the issue whether the injury is actually work-related. Coming back to work after a long weekend and then claiming “hey, I hurt my back here last Friday” will often result in a claim being rejected and the injured worker waiting 2 months or more for a hearing before the Ohio Industrial Commission.
Complete the employer’s incident report as soon as possible, preferably immediately, after the incident/injury occurs. Make sure this is done in writing as memories of supervisors and even co-workers sometimes become amazingly foggy when a contested claim is scheduled for an allowance hearing.
Second, Seek Medical Attention as Soon as Possible
If your employer has an on-site medical dispensary, go there. Give a complete explanation of what you were doing, what happened, what you felt and where you felt it. If no on-site facility is available, seek treatment at an Urgent Care facility, hospital emergency room or your family doctor right away. Again, it is very important that you provide a history of your injury, how it happened and where you hurt.
Third, Make Sure Your Claim Gets Filed
If you are applying for workers’ compensation benefits, make sure your claim gets filed–preferably as soon as possible. Again, although Ohio doesn’t require as a matter of law the reporting of an injury to your employer (but you will have already done this for the reasons I noted above), Ohio does require that a claim for benefits be filed within 2 years of the date of injury. The employer or the hospital will often provide and even file the claim paperwork for you but ultimately it is your responsibility to ensure that the claim has been timely filed. A claim may be filed in person with the BWC but it is even easier merely to visit the BWC’s website to complete and submit the First Report of Injury (FROI) form. Once the form has been submitted to the BWC, you will receive a claim number. If you haven’t received a claim number from the BWC within a couple weeks (if not sooner) in spite of assurances from your employer that they filed your claim, check with the BWC to make sure the claim has actually been filed. If you give the claim application to your employer to file, make sure to keep a copy for yourself.