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09/18/2017

BWC changes statute of limitations for filing claims and more

By Sue A. Roudebush

Substitute House Bill 27 goes into effect September 29, 2017, and there are a number of changes that may impact your business.

Statute of limitations. Claimants now only have one year to file a workers’ compensation claim involving an injury or death, instead of two. 

Drug-testing changes. Ohio’s Workers’ Compensation Law currently provides for a rebuttable presumption that injuries do not occur as a result of employment if the claimant tests positive for certain substances. The bill revises the types and amounts of controlled substances to which the rebuttable presumption applies. Specifically, all controlled substances will now be listed under the statute, and threshold limits have changed to comply with federal regulations. 

Payments to incarcerated dependents. An employee’s dependents are now barred from collecting compensation benefits if they are incarcerated as a result of a conviction of any state or federal criminal law.

Waiver of 90-day examinations/temporary total compensation. The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) requires that claimants receiving temporary total disability benefits undergo mandatory examinations under certain circumstances (e.g., every 90 days that the claimant is on temporary total disability benefits). Previously, when the BWC waived the examination, the employer had no recourse but to pay for an examination out-of-pocket. Now, the employer may object to the waiver, and the BWC must continue with the examination. 

FWW calculations. If an employee’s full weekly-wage (FWW) cannot be determined, the BWC or self-insuring employer is required to pay claimant 33.33 percent of the statewide weekly wage until the wage amounts can be properly determined. After such time, any over/under payments will be assessed.

Permanent partial disability. To alleviate a backlog of permanent partial disability (PPD) applications, the BWC will dismiss a claimant’s application for a PPD award if the individual fails to attend two scheduled examinations without explanation. The employee may refile the application after the dismissal.

Court appeals from the Industrial Commission. In an effort to encourage settlement and avoid the payment of unnecessary court costs, the bill extends the time to file an appeal of an Industrial Commission order from 60 days to 150 days if a party provides notice of intent to settle a claim within 30 days, and the opposing party does not object. An opposing party has 14 days to object to the intent to settle.

Attorney fees. The amount of attorney fees a claimant can potentially recover from the employer has been increased from $4,200 to $5,000.

Handicap Reimbursement Program. Employers are now permitted to benefit from the Handicap Reimbursement Program after settling a claim. Previously, state-fund employers were hesitant to settle since the full settlement would be charged to the employer’s experience without advantage of the handicap. Now, the handicap discount will be applied to settlements as well. 

There is a lot changing to the Ohio Workers’ Compensation System! If you have any questions regarding these changes, consult an attorney.