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What Are The Changes To The Ohio Workers’ Compensation Law Under House Bill 81?

This year, House Bill 81 was unanimously passed in the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio State Senate, followed by Gov. Mike Dewine’s signing of the bill on June 16, 2020. House Bill 81 is slated to go into effect on Sept. 15, 2020.

While originally conceived to give detention officers extended coverage of post-exposure testing, the bill brings several new changes to Ohio’s workers’ compensation law, especially regarding the defense use of voluntary abandonment, which has historically been based on case law and not statute. Consequently, there are several important questions and answers surrounding House Bill 81.

Attorney Philip Fulton represented the rights of injured workers and employees before the Ohio General Assembly throughout the creation of House Bill 81. He understands the full scope of this bill and its ramifications on Ohio’s workers’ compensation system.

Read below to learn more about this landmark legislation. If you have any questions about House Bill 81 or how it impacts your past or current workers’ compensation claim, please call our Columbus office at Philip J. Fulton Law Office to schedule a free initial consultation. You may also contact Philip J. Fulton Law Office online.

Post-Exposure Testing Of Safety Officers In Ohio

Will My Post-Exposure Testing Be Covered If I’m Exposed To Another Person’s Blood Or Bodily Fluids?

Ohio Revised Code (section 4123.026) currently requires the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) and self-insured public employers to cover the cost of post-exposure testing for safety officers such as police officers, firefighters and emergency medical workers who came in contact with another person’s blood or bodily fluids while performing the duties and functions of their job, regardless if the officer had previously reported a contracted disease or injury.

House Bill 81 extends this coverage to detention officers, where it will require self-insured detention facilities to cover the cost of post-exposure testing for detention officers who came in contact with the blood or bodily fluids of another person during their time of employment at such facilities.

Will My Post-Exposure Testing Be Covered If I’m Exposed To A Drug Or Other Chemical Substance?

House Bill 81 extends the coverage of post-exposure testing for detention officers who come into contact with a drug or chemical during the time of their employment at a detention facility. The bill requires that self-insured detention facilities cover the cost of such post-exposure testing.

It should be noted, there is particular emphasis on exposure to opioids while working at such detention facilities. This is a problem which has been compounded over the last few years as Ohio has seen a significant rise in opioid usage, and it has been a major factor in the drafting of House Bill 81.

Voluntary Abandonment Doctrine Nullified As Defense To Temporary and Permanent Total Disability Eligibility

Under What Conditions Will I Be Eligible To Receive Temporary Total Disability (TTD) Compensation?

Temporary total disability (TTD) in Ohio occurs when a worker is temporarily unable to work, and if that inability to work is directly caused by a work injury or occupational disease, then the worker is eligible to receive benefits. But there needs to be a clear proximate cause connecting their inability to work to the work injury or occupational disease. This applies to all claims pending or arising after the effective date of House Bill 81, Sept. 15, 2020.

What About Past Judicial Decisions On The Voluntary Abandonment Doctrine To TTD Or Wage Loss Claims?

House Bill 81 nullifies the voluntary abandonment doctrine, as it has previously been born out of, and further defined, through case law that goes back to the 1980’s. This now gives workers with old cases that had been denied under voluntary abandonment the chance to re-apply for new terms of disability if they are eligible to do so.

Under What Conditions Will I Be Eligible To Receive Permanent Total Disability (PTD) Compensation?

Permanent total disability (PTD) in Ohio occurs when a worker develops the “inability to perform sustained remunerative employment” as a result of a work injury or occupational disease. The Ohio BWC uses this definition to cover cases where workers can no longer work, regardless of provided working environment. Similar in the case of TTD, there likewise needs to be a clear proximate cause that connects the incurred injury or disease directly to an occurrence in the work environment.

Will The Changes Of House Bill 81 Impact Pending Claims Or Claims Arising After the Bill’s Effective Date?

House Bill 81 will apply to pending claims and claims arising after Sept. 15, 2020.

Additional Award For Specific Safety Violation

What Is The Timeline For Filing For An Additional Award Of Compensation In The Violation Of A Specific Safety Rule (VSSR)?

House Bill 81 changes the statute of limitations in the violation of a specific safety rule from two years to one year. This means that injured workers who claim that their workplace injury or occupational disease is the result of a violation of a specific safety rule, one that normally should be understood and maintained in the workplace, will now have to file “one year after the date of the injury or death or within one year after the disability due to the occupational disease.”

Final Settlement Agreements

Can My Previous Employer Withdraw From A Claim Settlement If I’m No Longer An Employee?

House Bill 81 provides a new subsection that prevents an employer from withdrawing from a settlement when the claim falls outside the employer’s experience and the employee no longer works for the employer. This will give employees the ability to more easily progress through a final claim settlement, even if the employer refuses to participate.

Continuing Jurisdiction Over Workers’ Compensation Claims

How Are Medical Services Covered Under The Industrial Commission’s Jurisdiction?

House Bill 81 presents new language that sets the claim’s expiration to five years after the date of last medical services rendered to the injured person or last payment of compensation. Prior to this change in House Bill 81, it had previously been the last date of payment of the medical bill. This change in language may potentially shorten the life of the claim, as some injured workers may not make final payment on a medical bill until a long time after the last medical services were rendered.

Funeral Expenses

What Are The Changes To The Funeral Expense Benefit Cap?

House Bill 81 increases the funeral benefit cap from $5,000 to $7,500. This change, however, is not retroactive. This will only become effective following Sept. 15, 2020.

Appealing Industrial Commission Orders

How Has The Time To Appeal An Industrial Commission Order Changed?

The time to appeal has now moved from 60 days to 150 days for all pending claims if the parties agree to participate in the intent to settle process.