2006 Workers Compensation Law Amendments
In March 2006 the Ohio legislature passed Senate Bill 7 which included extensive amendments to the Ohio Workers Compensation statutes. The Bill was supported by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and other business groups and the changes are effective June 27, 2006. Following is a summary of many changes affecting the Bureau of Workers Compensation, employers and injured workers:
• R.C. 4123.01(C)(4) now requires an injured worker to provide objective evidence of “substantial” aggravation to make aggravation of a pre-existing injury compensable. R.C. 4123.54(G) also limits medical treatment to only treatment needed to return to the pre-injury condition;
• R.C. 4123.52 reduces the number of years an inactive claim can remain open for both lost time and medical only claims to 5 years (previously the time limit was 6 years for medical only claims and 10 years for lost time claims);
• R.C. 4123.56(B) limits non-working wage loss benefits to 52 total weeks (rather than 200 weeks), but the first 26 weeks of non-working wage loss does not count against the overall wage loss 200-week limit. The overall 200-week limit now includes both regular wage loss and living maintenance wage loss (former law permitted up to 200 weeks of each);
• R.C. 4123.57 reduces the “gap” or 40 week waiting period between termination of Temporary Total benefits and Permanent Partial Disability benefits from 40 weeks to 26 weeks. The amendment also raises the maximum facial disfigurement award from $5,000 to $10,000;
• R.C. 4123.48(A) and R.C. 4123.61 provide that the rate for Permanent Total Disability (“PTD”) is based upon the date of injury or occupational disease and the Average Weekly Wage cannot be recalculated solely due to a lapse in time from the date of injury to the onset of PTD;
• R.C. 4123.512 eliminates the injured worker’s automatic right to dismiss an employer’s appeal (it now requires consent of employer) and increases the maximum attorney fees award for a successful claimant appeal of the right to participate from a maximum of $2,500 to $4,200;
• R.C. 4123.65 provides that a settlement may be voided if the employee dies within the 30 day waiting period after the settlement is signed and allows settlement applications, under certain circumstances (e.g. claim outside the employer’s experience) to be filed without the employer’s signature, but the employer has right to object within the 30 day waiting period;
• R.C. 4123.01(C) requires that the physical injury giving rise to a psychiatric condition must occur to the injured worker suffering the psychological injury, not to a co-worker;
• R.C. 4123.311 permits the Bureau to require electronic funds transfers for payments and R.C. 3121.0371 requires the Bureau to first pay the attorney fees from an award otherwise subject to withholding for child support.
The 2006 revisions also strengthen the employer and medical/provider fraud statutes and increase employer fines for lapse in coverage.
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