Almost every employee in Ohio should be covered by workers’ compensation if they get injured on the job or are diagnosed with an occupational disease. However, as comprehensive as that sounds, there are a few gaps and exceptions when it comes to actually being eligible to apply for benefits. We consider four basic requirements for applying for workers’ comp after a work injury or illness.
You Must Be an Employee
Ohio employers need not cover the independent contractors they use to complete jobs. While all employees—whether full-time, part-time, or temporary—are covered, contractors are not. So, the first requirement for getting workers’ comp benefits is being a regular employee. Even if the employer has not gotten the workers’ comp insurance they are required by law to get, employees will be covered by the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC), which will then go after the employer for being non-compliant. However, if you are an independent contractor on a construction site or warehouse loading dock or in an office, hospital, or school, you would have to buy your own workers’ comp insurance to protect you if you are injured on the job. It is possible that an employer has misclassified you as an independent contractor, but that is a separate legal issue.
The Injury or Illness Must Be Work-Related
This is a major sticking point in workers’ comp claims. You must prove you were injured while you were fulfilling the duties of your job or while on company property. Under Ohio’s “going and coming” rule, you are not covered during your regular commute to or from work, but you should be covered if you are traveling for work, attending an off-site meeting, or on your lunch break on company property. To prove that the injury or illness was “sustained in the course of and arising out of” your employment, you need to make sure you report your injury as soon as possible and that you see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment right away. If you work as a regular employee from home, you must meet very specific criteria to qualify for an injury you sustained off company property. If your employer disputes that your injury is work-related, you might need to obtain witness statements and security footage to prove it. Often, a workers’ comp attorney can be a big help.
You Must Meet Reporting Deadlines
To qualify for workers’ comp benefits, you must file your claim within one year from the date of the injury. For an occupational disease, you have two years from diagnosis of the illness. Even though you have a year or two to file a claim, we do not recommend that you wait that long. The sooner you report the injury and seek medical treatment, the more likely it is that your claim will be approved. However, if you have put off filing because you’re waiting to see if your injury will improve or you’re worried about losing your job, you still may file within the year, and talk to a workers’ comp lawyer about building a strong claim.
You Must Get a Medical Diagnosis and Follow Through With Treatment
Your employer and the BWC will scrutinize your claim for signs you are faking an injury to work the system. The best way to counter their suspicions is to seek medical treatment as soon as possible after you are injured and to go to all follow-up visits with a BWC-approved physician. You will also need to show you are trying to overcome the injury by participating in treatment and following your doctor’s orders. Medical records, scans, tests, and doctors’ notes are essential to a successful claim.
Get Help From Monast Law Office
With over 30 years of experience as a workers' comp attorney in Ohio, I have helped injured workers understand and meet the requirements of the workers’ comp system. If you are not sure that you meet the qualifications for coverage, contact Monast Law Office to discover how we can help. Learn more by requesting a free copy of our book, The Worker's Guide to Injury Compensation in Ohio, then fill out our online contact form or call our Upper Arlington office at 614-334-4649 to get started.