If you have a work-related injury or illness in Ohio, you're probably wondering what benefits you can receive through the state's workers' compensation system. This article explains the types of benefits available to injured employees and the basic rules for determining how much money you can get paid.
To get these benefits, you'll need to report your injury to your employer, tell the doctor you first see about the injury or illness that it's work related, and then make sure that the doctor or your employer has filed the proper report to the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC).
Can You Get Workers' Comp Benefits in Ohio for COVID-19?
Under Ohio law, workers' comp will cover an occupational disease that you contracted on the job, but only when the nature of your job creates a risk of getting the illness that's higher than in most other jobs and in the general public. Even if you work in an occupation with a particularly high risk of exposure to COVID-19, however, you would still have to show that you contracted the illness while you were working.
In the context of a pandemic, it would be very difficult to prove that you got COVID-19 because of exposure at work rather than in the rest of your life. Some states have enacted measures to make it easier for certain employees, like first responders and healthcare workers, to get workers' comp benefits for COVID-19. Ohio hasn't yet joined those states.
If you're completely unable to work after you've had an on-the-job injury or contracted an occupational disease, you're entitled to temporary total disability benefits. You won't receive these benefits for the first week unless you're out of work for at least two weeks straight. The amount of benefits is based on your average earnings before you were injured or became ill, with maximum and minimum amounts determined by the statewide average weekly wage (SAWW) at the time of your injury. There are also limits on how long you can receive these benefits.
Ohio pays different rates of benefits at two different stages of your temporary total disability, with slightly different caps on the amount:
For injuries that happened in 2021, the maximum weekly benefit is $1.019. (For other years, you can find a list of the maximums at the BWC website.)
If you're also receiving Social Security retirement benefits, the maximum is lowered to two-thirds of the SAWW (or $679.33 for 2021 injuries).
The minimum for temporary total disability benefits is generally one-third of the SAWW. However, if you earned less than that before your injury, you'll receive the actual amount of your wages.
In Ohio, you can continue to receive temporary total disability benefits until:
Ohio pays "wage loss" benefits if you have temporary partial disability, meaning that if you can't do your normal job because of your workplace injury or occupational disease, but you are able to work in some capacity. These benefits are calculated at two-thirds of the difference between your pre-injury weekly wages and your current earnings, up to the amount of the SAWW. For instance, if you previously earned $1,000 a week but now earn $400 a week, you'll receive two-thirds of $600, or $400 per week in benefits.
If your employer has offered you light-duty work, or you've found a new, lower-paying job, you can receive these benefits for up to 200 weeks. You're also entitled to wage loss benefits while you're looking for work that accommodates your partial disability; these benefits can last up to 52 weeks; half of that time could be added to the 200-week limit for benefits once you've found a new job, for a total maximum of 226 weeks.
Once you've reached maximum medical improvement—or you're still receiving temporary total disability benefits at the 200-week point—you'll be scheduled for a medical exam to determine if you have any permanent limitations as a result of your workplace injury or occupational disease.
You'll be considered permanently and totally disabled if:
With permanent total disability, you'll continue to receive weekly payments at your temporary total disability rate for the rest of your life.
If your doctor finds you have a permanent impairment, but your disability isn't total, you may still be eligible for permanent partial disability benefits. Ohio workers' comp calculates these benefits in three different ways: for the loss of certain parts of your body, by a percentage of overall disability, or an award for serious disfigurement.
If you've suffered an amputation or have completely lost the use of an eye or an extremity (such as fingers, toes, hands, feet, arms, and legs), you'll receive permanent partial disability benefits for the number of weeks listed in a state schedule for that body part. The weekly amount will be equal to the current SAWW. For example, for the total loss of a foot, you would receive benefits for 150 weeks. For an accident that happened in 2021, the total benefits would be $152,850 ($1,019 per week for 150 weeks).
If you have a permanent impairment other than the loss of one of the scheduled body parts, the doctor will assign a percentage for your permanent partial disability. Your benefits will then be calculated at two-thirds of your average weekly wage, up to a maximum equal to one-third of the current SAWW. Those benefits will continue for a number of weeks equivalent to your percentage of disability times 200 weeks. For example, if you have a 50% permanent disability, you'll receive the payments for 100 weeks. However, if your disability is 90% or more, you'll receive the checks for the full 200 weeks.
If you have a serious disfigurement to the face or head that would impact your ability to find work, the BWC may award you an amount of compensation that's considered fair under the circumstances, up to a maximum of $10,000.
Under special circumstances, in order to give you immediate financial relief or help you rehabilitate, the BWC may pay your permanent partial disability benefits in a lump sum rather than in weekly payments.
Ohio workers' comp also provides other benefits to injured workers and their survivors, including:
As you can see by now, workers' comp benefits only cover a portion of you're the wages you lose because of a workplace injury or illness—and you won't receive any money for your pain and suffering. This might not seem fair, but it's part of the trade-off inherent in the workers' comp system. The advantage of workers' comp is that you can receive your benefits relatively quickly without having to file a lawsuit and prove that your employer was to blame for your injury. The disadvantage is that you won't receive compensation for the full value of your losses. (In a few limited circumstances, however, you might be able to sue outside of the workers' comp system to recover pain and suffering and other losses from a workplace injury.)