Important changes to Ohio’s workers’ compensation statutes took effect mid-September 2020 with the passing of House Bill 81. The changes include a shortened timeframe for filing a Violation of a Specific Safety Requirement (VSSR) and clarity around the employer argument of so-called “voluntary abandonment of employment.” The new law also increases the amount of funeral expenses in death claims and requires detention facilities to pay for certain medical diagnostic services.
Notable Impacts of House Bill 81
Here’s what the changes mean for Ohio’s workforce.
VSSR Claim Statute of Limitations
The time requirement for filing a VSSR claim was reduced to one year from the date of injury. Previously, injured workers had two years to file a VSSR claim.
Death Claims Funeral Benefit
For workers’ compensation death claims, the amount of reimbursable funeral expenses was increased from $5,500 to $7,500.
Jail and Prison Worker Medical Diagnostics
Workers’ compensation insurance must now pay for post-exposure medical diagnostic services when a corrections officer or other employee of a jail or prison comes into contact with blood or other bodily fluid during work duties. This requirement was previously limited to peace officers, firefighters, and emergency medical workers.
Doctrine of Voluntary Abandonment
Employers may no longer use the argument of “voluntary abandonment of employment” to deny benefits to an injured worker. Although never officially a part of Ohio workers’ compensation law, employers introduced the voluntary abandonment defense in an effort to prevent injured workers from receiving monetary benefits, and the court accepted some of their arguments.
Voluntary abandonment was said to occur when a worker suffered loss of income not because of a work-related injury, but because of some “voluntary” act on their part. For example, the employer might claim that the worker quit or walked off the job, or was terminated for violating a work rule that they knew (or should have known) was a fireable offense. If the employer could show that the worker voluntarily abandoned their employment, then injury compensation was denied.
David Graham explains that in the past, an employer sometimes terminated an employee post-injury and claimed that they “voluntarily” abandoned their job, which made them ineligible for benefits.
“This legislation affects temporary total and permanent total disability benefits,” says David. “We see the voluntary abandonment argument most often when an injured worker applies for temporary total benefits, typically within days of the injury. For example, if an injury occurred on Monday, and medical treatment is scheduled for 2 -3 days later, the doctor might take the worker off work. In the meantime, the employer terminates the worker and argues he ‘voluntarily’ abandoned his job. The new law could help workers obtain benefits that an employer previously could have prevented them from receiving.”
Free Case Reviews for Injured Ohio Workers
Graham & Graham’s workers’ compensation lawyers help injured workers and their families navigate the system and obtain the maximum benefits owed to them. We’ve been protecting the rights of hard-working Ohioans for nearly 100 years. If you have questions about how the new law affects your claim, or need help with a specific workers’ compensation matter, please call 1-800-621-8585 or contact our office.