How Could a Recent Ohio Court Decision Affect Your Award of Work-Related Disability Benefits?

If you're like many others who live or work in the Buckeye State, you may not give much thought to the "invisible" benefits available to you, like workers' compensation, until you become injured on the job. Not only can a workplace injury cause you to rack up some steep medical bills in a fairly short period of time, it could leave you unable to do your job (or any job) for the foreseeable future.

Workers' compensation insurance is designed to ease this stress by paying your lost wages, medical expenses, and other costs that have accrued since your injury. However, a recent decision of the Ohio Supreme Court could affect the type and extent of benefits you're able to receive, especially if you've already made a workers' compensation claim in the past.

Read on to learn more about the nuances of this court decision and how it might affect your pending workers' compensation claim. 

What recent decision of the Ohio Supreme Court changed workers' compensation benefits?

In State ex rel. Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Servs., Inc. v Indus. Comm. the Ohio Supreme Court held that an injured employee who had already applied for and received permanent total disability (PTD) benefits could not subsequently apply for and receive permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits for an injury arising from the same set of circumstances. 

The claimant in this matter was awarded PTD benefits based, in part, on her deteriorating psychological condition following a work-related injury. Following her award of these benefits, the claimant then filed for PPD benefits based on the physical impact of her disability. The Ohio Industrial Commission awarded these benefits, holding that the claimant was not prevented from further compensation for benefits based on conditions that were not the basis of the prior award (even if the accident or injury that led to both conditions was the same).

The Ohio Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Industrial Commission had abused its discretion in awarding these benefits and that the statutes implicated in this decision did not provide any express authorization for both PPD and PTD benefits to be awarded to a single claimant. Although the Ohio legislature has enumerated some specific exceptions to this blanket rule, the statutes themselves were not found to authorize the award of both types of benefits to a single claimant; the Ohio Supreme Court therefore found that the Industrial Commission had overreached in coming to its interpretation. 

How could this court decision impact your receipt of benefits? 

This decision could have several tangible impacts on Ohio residents who are considering filing for workers' compensation benefits.

The first is the inability to receive both PTD and PPD benefits for a single injuring situation, even if these benefits are for different types of injuries. This means that you'll need to make your first (and only) workers' compensation claim as comprehensive as possible, including all physical and mental ailments you've suffered as a result of your on-the-job injury.  

Even if you haven't sought out any psychological treatment following your injury, it can be worthwhile to consult with a psychologist to ensure you aren't leaving any benefits on the table, especially if your injury is of such a nature that you could end up with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) months or even years later. Failing to include mental injuries in your original claim could prevent you from ever being compensated for the injuries you've suffered.

It's also important to remain mindful of the potential outcomes of your claim. While being deemed permanently and totally disabled can make you eligible for the highest tier of workers' compensation benefits, it also means you'll be unable to earn a gainful living elsewhere – and if you do eventually return to work, you may be required to repay a portion of the benefits you've received on the basis of your total disability. In some cases, being deemed partially rather than totally disabled can provide you with a wider array of future earning options.

To learn more about your options, contact services like Gilbert, Blaszcyk & Milburn LLP.