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Ohio Supreme Court rules in favor of injured worker

The success of a workers’ compensation claim depends largely on the evaluation of the injury or disability made by doctors. As a result, it is common for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to either deny a workers’ compensation claim completely or award a compensation amount that is much less than adequate for the injury suffered by a worker based on those medical evaluations. However, a recent ruling by the Supreme Court of Ohio may be of interest to many workers in and around Columbus.

In 2002, a maintenance worker suffered a back injury while on the job. The BWC allowed his claims for several spinal and psychological conditions and he received temporary total disability compensation until 2015. That same year, the worker applied for permanent total disability compensation. As part of the claim submission process, he underwent several physical and psychological evaluations with his treating doctor, who concluded that the injured worker’s condition could be termed as “without any present indication of recovery” and that the disabilities prevented him from engaging in “any gainful employment.”

Several months later, the BWC ordered an independent psychological evaluation to ascertain the extent of the psychological disability, the medical necessity and appropriateness of the treatment he was under and the potential of his return to the workforce. While this doctor acknowledged the fact that the worker was facing psychological problems, he suggested that the worker may be able to cope with a job in an office where stress levels are low. Earlier, the Industrial Commission of Ohio had granted a permanent total disability rating to the worker. However, based on this doctor’s, and another doctor’s opinion, denied it.

The 10th District Court of Appeals for the State of Ohio reversed the decision of the Industrial Commission of Ohio, saying that the commission had misused its discretionary powers to deny the worker permanent total disability based on medical reports that are equivocal and, therefore, not proper evidence. The Supreme Court of Ohio, in a 5-2 verdict, ruled that the Industrial Commission of Ohio was erroneous in its decision. It cited the ambiguous medical reports and confirmed the injured worker’s permanent total disability, thereby qualifying him for the appropriate workers’ compensation from the BWC.

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