Do I qualify for workers’ compensation benefits in Ohio?

Injury” for workers’ compensation purposes includes any injury, whether caused by external accidental means or accidental in character and result, received in the course of, and arising out of, the injured employee’s employment.

Furthermore, every employee who is disabled because of the contraction of an occupational disease or the dependent of an employee whose death is caused by an occupational disease is entitled to compensation as provided by statute.

Except that they read like “legalese”, these definitions seem fairly straightforward, don’t they?

They aren’t.

For example, “injury” doesn’t include strictly psychiatric conditions, except where they arise from an injury or occupational disease. This means if you merely witness someone who loses a hand in a machine or is gunned down in front of you at work, you do not have a compensable claim for the resulting anxiety disorder.

Furthermore, if your injury or disability is caused primarily by the natural deterioration of a body part, it’s not considered an injury in Ohio. However, if a pre-existing condition is “substantially aggravated” by a work incident or activity, it is considered a compensable injury.

Clear as mud, right?

Adding to this confusion, if an injury occurs, say, in a parking lot or crossing the street on the way to work, it may or may not be considered a legitimate workers’ compensation injury. Also, injuries that once qualified for benefits may no longer qualify if the employee is found to have voluntarily abandoned his/her employment or the workforce in general—or if the “substantially aggravated” condition has “returned to baseline”.

While many, if not most, work injuries are more obviously job-related than these examples, the answer to whether an incident qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits isn’t always clear. Of course, as you’d expect, these nuanced situations depend on the specific facts — but also on the quality of the arguments presented.

James Monast
Fighting for Ohio’s Injured Workers and their Families