Major Workers’ Compensation Reform on the Way

Kegler Brown E-mployment Alert

Those of you who attended Kegler Brown's annual Labor & Employee Relations seminar recently heard my bold prediction that the Ohio Legislature would not act on proposed workers' compensation reform until after the November 2006 elections. Well … so much for my prognostication skills!

Both houses of the Ohio Legislature have passed sweeping workers' compensation changes that were recommended by the Bureau of Workers' Compensation. The reforms have both negative and positive implications for employers but, on balance, should be beneficial. Below are just a few of the highlights:

  1. Requires a "substantial" aggravation of a pre-existing injury, rather than merely a "symptomatic" aggravation, for a claim to be compensable.
  2. Reduces the "life" of all claims to five years rather than the current six year (medical only) and ten year (lost time) "statutes of repose".
  3. Reduces the 40-week waiting period for the filing of a permanent partial application to 26 weeks.
  4. Reduces the number of available weeks of non-working wage loss compensation from 200 to 52.
  5. Increases the Bureau's $1,000 medical only claim program to $5,000.
  6. Expands anti-fraud provisions, primarily against employers and providers.
  7. Permits penalties against self-insuring employers for failure to timely pay assessments.
  8. Makes rape or sexual assault a compensable claim whether or not the victim suffers any physical injuries.
  9. Clarifies and limits entitlement to statutory permanent total disability compensation.
  10. Eliminates a claimant's right to dismiss an employer's court appeal.

If Governor Taft signs the legislation tomorrow as expected, it will become effective on June 25th.