Answers to Workers’ Compensation Questions From a Columbus Attorney
Could you be fired for filing for workers’ comp? Can an employer refuse to provide workplace injury compensation? Get fast answers to your injury questions by browsing our work injury FAQ page.
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Can I use my health insurance to obtain medical treatment after a work injury?
Ohio runs the largest state-funded workers’ compensation program in the country, covering 244,000 state employees. Last year, the system provided medical care and wage replacement benefits to injured workers with more than 88,000 claims. For some injured workers and their families, these can be daunting figures.
Worry about successfully navigating a large system or confusion about the workers’ compensation process can make employees want to find other ways to address their on-the-job illnesses and injuries.
Sometimes, employers may even discourage an injured worker from filing a workers’ compensation claim. Often, workers wonder if it is possible to use their health insurance benefits to treat their injuries. While this seems like a simple option, there are specific rules concerning work injuries, and failing to follow those rules can make it difficult for injured employees to obtain the benefits they need to heal and move forward.
The Benefits of Using the Ohio Workers’ Compensation System
For those workers who fear workers’ compensation or have concerns about the effectiveness of the system, it has some key advantages over private health insurance after a work injury. While both workers’ compensation and private health insurance provide medical care to those under their programs, workers’ compensation offers additional benefits, including:
- Wage replacement – Often, workers are forced to miss work as they are treated and recover from their injuries. This means lost wages and potentially significant financial strain. Wage replacement benefits compensate workers to minimize this stress and help them remain financially afloat.
- Compensation for permanent disability – Sometimes, employees suffer injuries which result in a permanent impairment that will affect their ability to work and earn income. Depending on the severity of the disability, different benefits are available to address this future loss of earning power and income.
Private Insurance Is Not Required to Cover Work-Related Injuries
The workers’ compensation system exists specifically to address the unique needs and challenges associated with work-related injuries. The existence of these benefits effectively relieves private health insurance companies from their responsibility to those they insure when the injury or illness occurs on the job. Insurance companies do not have to cover costs that fall under the umbrella of workers’ compensation. If they pay for care related to a work injury, they may seek reimbursement from the appropriate party, known as subrogation.
Both providers and insurance company representatives will inquire on how an injury occurred, and workers should know that lying about the cause—either to avoid the workers’ compensation system or protect an employer—could be considered fraud, which is a criminal offense.
How an Ohio Workers’ Compensation Attorney Can Help
It is natural for workers and their families to have concerns about paying bills after a work injury. These concerns, however, should not keep you from seeking care. Emergency care is covered by workers’ compensation. The Ohio BWC requires injured workers to choose from a list of approved providers for treatment, though some flexibility depends on the situation. Workers’ compensation can provide the medical care and financial support injured workers need to recover and move forward, and workers have a right to these benefits. If you have been injured at work, especially if you feel unsure of your rights or your employers has discouraged you from filing a claim, an experienced attorney can help you:
- Understand your rights
- Prepare and file a claim
- Negotiate with the BWC
- State your case at a hearing if necessary
Care and compensation in Ohio typically must be secured through the state’s workers’ compensation system, and while it can feel overwhelming, it is possible to succeed. At Monast Law Office, our experienced legal team has helped many injured workers obtain the benefits they deserved. Call our Upper Arlington office today at (614) 334-4649 or fill out the contact form on this page to speak with a member of our team and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to learn more about how we may help.
Can I be denied workers’ compensation benefits if I fail a drug test?
One of the main tenets of the workers’ compensation system across the U.S. is an injured employee’s ability to obtain benefits regardless of fault. In exchange for reduced liability, employers agree to provide care and compensation even if an employee played a role in the accident or situation that resulted in the illness or injury. There are, however, some key exceptions to this rule. Besides injuries suffered in fights or that occur when an employee violates company policy, drug use can disqualify workers from benefits. Many workers wonder both if their employers may perform drug tests and if it is possible to lose workers’ compensation benefits as a result of a failed test. Here, we look at drug testing and drug policy relevant to Ohio’s workers.
Employers’ Rights to Use Drug Testing in Ohio
Ohio employers are within their rights to perform drug tests on employees. The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) even encourages employers to do so, offering incentives for employers to enroll in a state drug-free workplace initiative. The Drug Free Safety Program (DFSP) calls for employers to drug test employees after an accident and upon return to work as two of several requirements of the program. Employers are also permitted to test an employee when reasonable suspicion of intoxication or drug use arises. While this program is voluntary and not every Ohio employer will participate, know that drug testing is a common practice and may occur at your place of employment regardless of whether your employer is involved with DFSP or not.
What to Expect From a Drug Test and What They Test For
There are several ways to test a person for drug use, and different employers may elect to use different methods. The most common forms of drug testing include examining samples of urine, hair, blood, breath, or even sweat.
Employers most commonly follow the guidelines set by the national Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Under these guidelines, employers will test for:
- Amphetamines (meth, speed, ecstasy)
- THC (marijuana)
- Cocaine and crack
- Opiates (heroin, morphine, oxycodone)
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
Failing a Drug Test Does Not Automatically Disqualify Workers From Benefits
So, you were involved in an accident at work and failed a subsequent drug test. What now? You still may have workers’ compensation benefits. State law mandates that an employee can only be denied benefits if:
- He or she was under the influence during the accident or injury. It must be shown that the employee was under the influence when the injury occurred. This means a drug test days or weeks later may not matter. Only timely tests that can scientifically and reliably indicate impairment at a specific time are relevant.
- The drug or alcohol use was the proximate cause of the injury. Proving an employee was impaired during an injury is not enough. In addition, an employer must show that the impairment directly led to the accident or injury. If any other circumstances contributed to the injury besides the employee’s drug use, it can still be possible to obtain benefits.
And there are a several other defenses against benefits denial after a failed drug test. Workers taking medication prescribed by a doctor for a legitimate medical reason, those singled out unfairly among other employees, and anyone subject to inappropriate testing methods could dispute the drug test results.
If you or someone you love has suffered an injury at work, and you are worried about drug testing by your employer, contact the experienced workers’ compensation attorney at Monast Law Office. Attorney Jim Monast and his staff can provide information about your rights to medical care and compensation, and they may help you protect those rights. Call our Upper Arlington office today, or take a moment to fill out our online contact form for a prompt response from our team.