Ohio law provides for the payment of compensation when an injured worker sustains a loss of a specific body part as a result of a workplace injury. The definition of “loss” means not only loss by amputation or severance, but also the loss of use of the affected body part to the same extent as if it had been amputated for all intents and purposes.
The computation for compensation is based upon the part of the body injured. Generally, the larger the body part lost, the greater the award. For example, the loss of an injured worker’s index finger entitles the worker to 35 weeks of compensation whereas the loss of an entire hand entitles the worker to 175 weeks of compensation. The weekly payment is based upon the year of injury. For an injury sustained in 2012, the weekly payment is $809.00. Consequently, a 2012 injury that results in the loss of a hand entitles the injured worker to a total award of $141,575.
The weekly payment commences as of the date of the loss. When the amputation occurs at the time of the injury, the weekly award would commence on that date. When the loss is sustained the date of weekly payment commences from the date of the loss. Thus, where the injury is severe, such as the loss of a hand, it takes over three years from the date of the loss for the injured worker to realize the entire award.
The Ohio Supreme Court has characterized loss awards as payment in lieu of general damages. While such pain and suffering lasts a lifetime, it is only appropriate for the injured worker to receive the entire award all at one time, rather than waiting three years or longer to obtain full benefit. Moreover, loss awards are used by many injured workers to pay off bills that may have built up while they were waiting for their claims to be approved, or to for retraining or rehabilitation to help them get back to the workplace. While the law allows an injured worker to seek a loss award in one lump sum for these purposes, the Bureau would reduce the total payment to present value. Reducing an award for present value has the effect of decreasing the loss award to the injured worker.
Recognizing that the loss awards are paid in lieu of pain and suffering, and that injured workers need these awards to be paid in lump sums to cover unpaid living expenses and rehabilitation costs, as reported in this blog in 2010, the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation changed the manner of paying loss awards by allowing the entire award be paid in one lump sum, without reduction for present value.
Unfortunately, at the insistence of corporations and insurance companies, the Ohio legislature recently trumped the Bureau on this by reinstating the reduction of the award when it is paid in a lump sum of money rather than over time. In an effort to avoid public awareness of this anti-injured worker change, (that would be subject to hearings before the Ohio senate and Ohio house), the Ohio Republications “attached” the change to the general Ohio budget bill for years 2012-13. This deprived Ohio citizens of expressing their challenge to the law via committee hearing.
As we have reported previously, time and time again, instead of seeking to change law to assist injured workers to return to work more quickly, and to provide essential compensation for costs of living and rehabilitation, the Ohio Republicans continue to work to reduce benefits to injured workers.