Workers' compensation in Ohio is a no-fault system designed to provide injured workers with the medical care and financial support they need while recovering. While you can be eligible for benefits no matter who was at fault for your injury, there are two requirements that apply:
- You must prove that your injury happened within the scope of your employment.
- Your injury must not have been caused intentionally or by reckless behavior (such as reporting to work while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol).
In Ohio, you are eligible for workers' comp benefits if you're an employee of the company you work for. There may be some confusion regarding people who work as independent contractors or work under the table, however. The best way to learn about your legal rights as a worker in Ohio is to speak to an experienced attorney who understands how the system works.
How do I get started on my workers' compensation claim?
You must first notify your employer after a workplace accident and provide a written statement explaining how your accident occurred. Next, you need to see a doctor, no matter how minor your injury may feel. You should never brush off minor aches and pains, as they can develop into something worse if left untreated. When seeing a doctor, make sure you mention that you were hurt on the job. This will allow you to document your injury, diagnosis and treatment.
Next, you need to file a claim with the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC). The only parties who are able to file a claim on your behalf are your doctor or another party of interest (employer or spouse). If you're the one filing the claim, you must complete the First Report of an Injury, Occupational Disease or Death (FROI) on the BWC website. The FROI can be confusing for many people, especially for injured workers filing for the first time. To ensure that the FROI is completed without any errors, it's important that you speak to an experienced attorney who can help guide you through this process.
Any errors that are made during the filing process can result in your benefits being delayed or denied. Let an experienced attorney at Hochman & Plunkett Co., L.P.A. help you through the process, prepare your case for trial, and advocate for a fair settlement on your behalf.
Can I get workers' compensation if I'm an independent contractor?
An independent contractor is someone who contracts to perform work for a company. Rather than work for a company as an employee, an independent contractor treats the company as a client. This is commonly found in the construction industry but can span across a wide range of industries. The BWC considers independent contractors who don't work in the construction industry to be employers when they're in control of the "means and methods" of your work. This includes work hours, processes, procedures, where work is performed and how work-related expenses are paid. Unlike employees, independent contractors receive a 1099 tax form instead of a W-2.
If you're an independent contractor, you are not eligible for workers' comp from the company you contract for. However, if you were hurt at work as an independent contractor, you're not out of options. Here's why:
Employers sometimes misclassify workers as independent contractors instead of employees.
Do you work a consistent schedule that you don't have any control over? Do you receive hourly or weekly wages from the company you're "contracting" for? If so, that company may have misclassified you as an independent contractor. Many companies do this to avoid having to pay for workers' compensation and other important benefits.
You can receive workers' comp benefits through your own insurance policy.
Depending on how much control you have over your work, you may be considered a sole proprietor. If your duties and responsibilities are shared with another contractor, then you may be considered a partner. In either case, you can purchase workers' comp insurance coverage for yourself. You must purchase workers' comp insurance if you employ anyone to work for you, however.
You can file a third-party liability claim.
Unlike Ohio's "no-fault" workers' comp system, you must prove that a negligent party caused your injury when filing a third-party liability claim. You would have to prove that another party other than a worker you employ or are partnered with caused your injury. This could be a contractor for a different company, the driver of a motor vehicle, a vendor, the owner of a business or property you worked on, or the manufacturer of defective machinery or equipment.
What if I work under the table or "off the books?"
Those who work under the table perform many of the same duties as employees but are not entered into a company's payroll. They receive cash as their payments instead of paychecks. The BWC classifies this as:
- Casual labor — These are individuals who work short-term jobs or per-diem assignments. Some companies pay these workers cash under the table, but that's not always the case.
- Spot labor — These workers often receive cash compensation. They may work within the normal operations of a business, but only provide extra or short-term help with certain tasks.
This type of work is common for those who have a difficult time finding employment, but need to work. It's also common for people who are already employed but need to make extra cash on the side. If you were injured while working under the table, getting workers' comp benefits will be extremely difficult. To be eligible for workers' comp benefits, you must show proof of your earnings through a paystub. Ohio determines wage reimbursement by your average weekly wages from the last 52 weeks.
Filing a personal injury claim
The only option you may have if you were injured while working "off the books" is to file a personal injury claim. Like a third-party liability claim, you would have to prove that someone else's negligence or reckless behavior resulted in your injury. For example, if you slipped and fell while performing work on someone's property, you may be able to pursue a claim against the property owner. That depends heavily on the type of hazard that led to your injury. It also depends on the level of knowledge the property owner had of it. For example, the property owner can be held accountable if he or she knew about the hazard and did nothing to fix it. Or if the hazard was present long enough that the property owner should have known about it.
About our firm
The attorneys at Hochman & Plunkett Co., L.P.A. have more than 150 years of combined experience helping injured workers maximize their compensation. We know how to handle workers' compensation and personal injury cases and get results for our clients. Our Ohio law firm serves Dayton, Cincinnati, Springfield and Troy. Contact us online or call us to find out how we can help you.