Ohio safety coordinator wins workers compensation claim

Our friend and client, Barrett, had a case that is a prime example of a saying I like to quote when asked about a particularly outrageous workers’ compensation claim result: “Welcome to the world of court, where just because you are right does not mean you will get justice.”

I’ve opted not to use Barrett’s full name as he still works for his employer and likes his job. Fortunately, while photos from his accident are downright scary, he recovered well from his injuries and … well … let me tell the story.

Barrett works as a safety coordinator for an international engineering and sciences company. He travels around Ohio and provides safety consulting for drilling companies, often driving to several sites per day. One morning, while driving on a highway undergoing road construction, he was involved in a car wreck that demolished his Ford Fusion. Looking at pictures of the accident, I’m amazed he walked away relatively unscathed.

He was taken to Kettering Hospital and put through $18,000 of medical tests. Remarkably, he mainly suffered bumps and bruises and asked to return to work after a few days. Ohio has a legal doctrine in workers’ compensation injuries known as the “going and coming” rule. In a nutshell, the rule says if you go to the same work location every day and get in an auto accident on the way to work or on your way home, your injuries aren’t covered under workers’ compensation. The theory is you have no more risk than anyone else of getting in a wreck, so it’s not work-related. But, if you’re a traveling employee, you are typically covered.

Before he hired us, Barrett went to his first hearing alone and lost. We appealed and won his claim before a senior hearing officer, presenting evidence he traveled every day, often to multiple sites in a day, and logged over three times the miles of the average commuter.

His employer, which touts itself as wonderful to work for on its website, fought his claim by appealing to the Industrial Commissioners who decided to hear the appeal, something they rarely do. In an order showing how little they understand the nuances of decades of case law involving fixed and non-fixed situs employees, they decided his extensive travel posed no special hazard to him, reversed and disallowed his claim.

In most cases, this would have been even more of a travesty than in Barrett’s. However, as mentioned, his injuries were remarkably slight, and he returned to work quickly. After our win following his initial disallowance, his $18,000 in medical bills had to be paid (Ohio law requires them to be paid after a successful appeal hearing), and this was his main concern all along. But his employer didn’t pay those bills, even though they assured the Industrial Commission they had when they filed their Hail Mary appeal.

Client Wins Successful Claim

After the commissioners denied Barrett’s claim and we learned his bills hadn’t been paid, the company and its legal counsel arrogantly balked at paying. They changed their tune when we filed an administrative complaint against them, which can result in a revocation of self-insurance status. After considerable huffing and puffing, moaning, and groaning, they paid the bills.

As Barrett’s attorney, I earned no fees from his case despite many hours of work — and I’m fine with that. I got his bills paid, his injuries weren’t worse, and he’s recovered and isOhio Workers Compensation client success story back to work at a job he likes. Plus, I could stand up on his behalf against an employer that fought against a devoted employee and even tried to skate on paying his medical bills as the law requires. Not every payday is monetary.

James Monast
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Board-Certified Workers’ Compensation Attorney in Columbus, Ohio