Suffering a work-related injury can be painful and frustrating. Employees are often forced to miss work and undergo medical treatment. Lost wages, doctor visits, and paperwork are just a few of the headaches associated with these injuries. For the injured employees, it can be an even more difficult situation when the injury was the result of an employer’s carelessness. Employers are required to follow certain safety requirements to promote the well-being of their employees. When they fail to do so and injury results, they can be held accountable. The Ohio workers’ compensation system does offer additional compensation to workers in these situations, known as Violations of Specific Safety Requirements (VSSR).
What Is VSSR Compensation?
Ohio law requires that employers follow certain safety rules depending on the nature of the business and provide a safe workplace for their employees. Violations of specific safety requirements awards offer compensation to injured workers when they are injured because of an employer’s failure to protect them. This compensation is separate from a typical workers’ compensation claim and is offered in addition to any weekly benefits the employee may be eligible to receive (such as temporary total or permanent partial). A VSSR claim could arise out a wide range of situations, including the employer’s failure to provide appropriate protective gear, to remove damaged or defective equipment, and much more.
Burden of Proof Is on the Injured Employee in Ohio VSSR Claims
VSSR claims in Ohio can be complex. The burden of proof is on the injured employee, who must show valid reasons the employer should be punished through a VSSR award. To be successful, an employee must demonstrate:
- There is an existing safety requirement stated in the Ohio Revised Code that is both specific and applicable to his work circumstance.
- The employer was in violation of the requirement when then accident or injury occurred.
- That failure led directly to the employee’s illness, injury, or death.
This can be a difficult task, and an experienced Ohio workers’ compensation attorney can help injured employees. Often, these cases require extensive investigation, evidence gathering, securing of witnesses. Additionally, it is necessary to state your case at a hearing before the Industrial Commission.
Filing a VSSR Claim After an Ohio Work Injury
To receive a VSSR award, it is necessary to file a claim separate from the typical benefits claim. Injured workers have two years from the date of the injury to file a VSSR claim. Once the claim is filed, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) will begin an investigation through its safety violations investigation unit (SVIU). The SVIU will notify all parties involved and complete a thorough investigation. After that, a hearing will be held to determine whether or not the employee is eligible for a VSSR award.
What Compensation Is Available in a VSSR Claim?
Compensation in a VSSR case is intended not only to aid the injured worker but also to punish the employer for its failure to follow state regulations. If an injured worker successfully pursues a VSSR claim, the Industrial Commission will award the employee an additional percentage (between 15 and 50 percent) of the maximum weekly compensation for the injury. This means, for example, that if a worker is receiving temporary total compensation for an injury and is awarded 30 percent VSSR, he would also receive an additional payment of his weekly temporary total payment times 30 percent.
Does a VSSR Award Affect My Weekly Benefits?
The main tenet of the workers’ compensation system is that benefits are paid regardless of fault. VSSR awards address specific instances in which the employer was negligent, and it has no bearing on other workers’ compensation benefits. An employee can still continue to receive medical care and wage replacement benefits even if a VSSR claim is denied.
VSSR claims in Ohio are relatively rare, but if your employer failed to provide a safe workplace, they should be held accountable. Even if you are not sure of your rights or your employer’s obligations, contact the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Monast Law Office. Jim Monast and his legal team can examine your case and help you decide how to best move forward.