It’s true: the workers’ compensation process can be extremely confusing. As a result, myths and half-truths are everywhere.
Today, we’re going to set the record straight with a look at 5 common workers’ compensation beliefs. Which are true, and which are false? Keep reading to find out!
#1 If you do work for a company, you’re covered by workers’ compensation.
This is one of the most common workers’ compensation-related beliefs, but it’s actually false.
In Ohio, workers’ compensation is offered only to employees—and even then, some employees are exempted. For example, family farms and ministries are not required to offer workers’ compensation insurance.
Workers’ compensation does not cover volunteers or independent contractors (also known as freelance workers). You might be an independent contractor if you are in business for yourself, and you are working with a company on a temporary basis. (For example, if you have your own landscaping or graphic design business.) This is legally different from being an employee, who is financially dependent on a business and works on a permanent or indefinite basis. (For example, an accountant or warehouse manager.)
If you are injured in a work-related accident, don’t assume that you are automatically covered. You’ll need to know whether the company you work for is required to have workers’ compensation insurance and whether you are legally considered an employee.
#2 If you’re at fault for your injury, you can’t get workers’ comp benefits.
This is another commonly held misconception about workers’ comp—but it is mostly false.
The misconception probably comes from people confusing workers’ comp claims with personal injury lawsuits. It’s true that, to file a successful personal injury suit, your injuries must have been caused by someone else. However, that’s not the case for workers’ compensation.
If you are injured at work or develop a work-related illness, you are allowed to file a workers’ comp claim regardless of who was at fault. Fortunately, it doesn’t matter if you feel you should have been paying more attention or could have avoided the accident. The only exception to the “no-fault” rule of workers’ comp is if you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of your injury.
#3 I can sue after a workplace injury.
The answer to this common belief? Yes and no.
First, you generally cannot sue your employer for a work-related injury or illness. The workers’ compensation system protects employers from lawsuits, in exchange for no-fault coverage of employees’ workplace injuries.
However, you can sue your employer if he or she intentionally harms you. (This can be hard to prove, but a clear-cut case, for example, would involve an employer physically attacking an employee.) You can also sue your employer if they do not have their required workers’ compensation insurance.
In addition, there are some circumstances that allow for both a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury lawsuit. For example, if you are injured by defective machinery or a toxic substance, you may be able to sue the manufacturer.
#4 You can take as much time as you need to file a claim.
Getting injured can be scary, stressful, and at times overwhelming. For many people, the idea of filing for workers’ compensation is just not at the top of their to-do list. They think they’ll do it later…and then, before they know it, the statute of limitations has run out on their claim.
The statute of limitations is, basically, the time limit for filing your claim. Ohio law requires people who suffer a work-related injury to file a claim within one year of the injury. (This is a recent change from the previous statute, which allowed two years.) For occupational diseases, the statute of limitations allows the worker two years to file a claim from the date of diagnosis, date of first treatment, or date he or she left work due to the disease.
After the statute of limitations passes (with some exceptions), you will not be allowed to file a workers’ comp claim. That means that filing as soon as you can is very important! It takes time to fill out the paperwork and gather all of the documentation needed to make your claim.
In short, this belief is false.
#5 If you didn’t report your injury that same day, you can’t file for workers’ comp.
There are many reasons that someone might not file for workers’ compensation right away. For example, say a man slips on the floor while moving boxes. He gets up and feels a little sore but relatively okay. Then, over the next week, his back starts to bother him more and more—so much so that he decides to go to the doctor. His doctor tells him he most likely hurt his back during his fall and that continuing to move boxes is making it worse.
In this scenario, the worker is still allowed to file for workers’ compensation even though he didn’t immediately report the fall to his employer—making belief #5 false.
As we mentioned above, the statute of limitations in Ohio allows you one year from the date of an injury and two years from the date of an occupational disease to file for workers’ compensation. You begin this process by filing a First Report of Injury (FROI) form. (This form is different from an injury report form your employer might use for internal purposes.)
All that said, it’s important to note that the earlier you report an accident and injury or illness, the better. If you can immediately alert your employer and seek medical attention, we recommend doing so. This is because insurance adjusters might wonder why you waited so long to file and doubt your claim.
Contact Us for Help
If you are considering filing for workers’ compensation, it helps not to go it alone. Having an experienced, knowledgeable attorney on your side can make the process easier and increase your odds of success.
Call Casper & Casper today to schedule a free consultation with a workers’ compensation attorney.