Should a Lawyer File My Workers' Comp Claim?
How to file and what to consider when you’re injured at work in OhioBy S.M. Oliva | Last updated on January 29, 2023
Use these links to jump to different sections:
- From the BWC to the IC (and to Court)
- If Your Workers’ Comp Case is Denied
- Contacting a Workers’ Comp Lawyer
From the BWC to the IC (and to Court)You should file for workers’ comp benefits as soon as possible after your work-related injury. Ohio imposes a one-year time limit on most injury-related claims. After BWC receives your claim, it has 28 days to conduct an initial investigation. During this time, BWC will request additional documentation in support of your workers’ compensation case, such as your medical records and proof of your pre-accident wages. Once this investigation is completed, BWC will decide to allow or deny your claim. If, however, your employer is the one failing to certify or accept the claim, “that alone should raise a red flag to the injured worker,” Barnhart says. “If the employer starts contesting treatments, that’s another. If they send the worker to the employer’s doctor, that should be a flag of caution. You have to wonder if they’re acting in your best interest.”
If Your Workers’ Comp Case is DeniedIf the BWC denies your claim, you have 14 days to appeal, starting from the date you received the BWC’s order. Your employer may also decide to appeal a BWC decision allowing your claim. If there is an appeal either way, you probably need to contact an experienced Ohio workers’ compensation attorney. The appeals process can involve multiple stages and can easily overwhelm you, especially if you’ve never dealt with the workers’ compensation system before. Attorneys in this field will offer an initial consultation that is free, during which time they will hear the details of your case and inform you of your rights. “All practitioners are also on contingency, so they aren’t paid unless they recover money on behalf of the injured worker,” Barnhart says. “And most attorneys are fairly giving with their time to explain the ins and outs of the system, because it can be daunting.” The Industrial Commission (IC) of Ohio is actually responsible for the workers’ compensation appeals process. Within 45 days of receiving an appeal, an IC official will conduct what is known as a District Level Hearing. This is similar to a civil trial: you and your employer will present witnesses and written evidence to the hearing officer. You may also be required to undergo an independent medical examination. Within a week of the District Level Hearing, the IC official will give you a written decision. The losing party may then file a second appeal and ask for what is known as a Staff Level Hearing. This involves a second round of hearings and decision. After this second stage, you and your employer may seek a third level of review with the Industrial Commission itself. This level of review is purely discretionary, however, meaning the IC is not obligated to hear the appeal. And once you exhaust all of your IC appeals, you can then seek further appeals directly to the Ohio state courts.
Contacting a Workers’ Comp LawyerA workers’ compensation claim may require multiple layers of hearings and reviews before it is finally resolved. While you are not required to have a qualified workers’ compensation lawyer at any of these stages, you will likely be at a significant disadvantage, especially when facing your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer and their lawyers. If you’d like to know more about this area, read our workers’ compensation law overview.
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