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How Can a Local, Cincinnati Attorney Help Get Social Security Disability Approved?

Posted on Thursday, June 28th, 2018 at 11:53 am    

The following post is part of our Law Student Blog Writing Project, and is authored by Jennifer Tressler, who is pursuing her Juris Doctorate at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

Social security disability attorneys can help make an overwhelming process seem much more manageable. While hiring a lawyer specializing in social security disability cases is not required, it will likely be extremely beneficial during a difficult time when your health is suffering. Social security disability attorneys have experience dealing with the Social Security Administration (SSA) and, as such, will be able to handle any of the various issues that could arise during the application process. You can expect your social security disability benefits attorney to review your case with you and ask you a variety of questions, both to gather information on your case and to prepare you for questions you may be asked should a hearing be necessary in the future. Your social security disability attorney will function as the liaison and communicator between you and the SSA. This is just one of the duties that you can expect your social security disability attorney to carry out on your behalf. But it is an important one, as the language and application process of social security disability is complex and often foreign to the average person. At Lawrence & Associates, Kelsey Westermeyer  handles the vast majority of social security claims and consistently achieves high approval ratings.

How Can My Attorney Help Get Approval for SSDI Through the Cincinnati, Ohio or Florence, Kentucky Social Security Offices?

Another one of the duties of your social security disability attorney is to complete an initial review of your case. This will happen no matter at which stage of the application process you are. After this initial review, your social security disability attorney will determine the best strategy for you moving forward. He or she will assist you in crafting a compelling story around your case and develop some strategies for how your case will be won.

One of the most common (and significant!) mistakes made by individuals applying for social security disability benefits is filing with an incomplete claim. The majority of applicants for social security disability benefits are denied during the initial stages, mostly due to incomplete applications. Having your social security disability attorney review your application and ensure its completeness is one of the best ways to ensure your application will go undo review in the proper channels.

Your social security disability attorney will collect and sort medical evidence on your behalf. Many social security disability cases are won and lost on medical evidence. After obtaining proper medical release forms, your social security disability attorney will help you gather the relevant medical evidence needed for your application. He or she will review your medical records and work alongside you to collect any missing medical information or tests. Most importantly, he or she will sort through the hundreds of pages of medical documents to determine which information is the most important. Many social security disability attorneys will work directly with your medical provider, physician, or other healthcare provider to gather supportive opinion statements and letters. Having this evidence strengthens your case and makes it more likely that you will be granted social security disability benefits. Additionally, if your social security disability attorney determines that additional testing is necessary to bolster your application, he or she can request a consultative examination from the Social Security Administration doctors or ask that you get the additional testing completed on your own.

Your social security disability attorney is responsible for staying in communication with the Social Security Administration. The Social Security office is enormous and has an immense volume of claims pass through it. The application process of social security disability benefits is complex, filled with multiple deadlines and various formalities that must be adhered to. Your social security disability attorney will communicate directly with the SSA on your behalf, so that you have less to worry about regarding your application and more time to work on your health. Having a middleman communicate with the SSA on your behalf protects your best interests during this already stressful time. Your social security disability attorney will work to push your social security disability benefits application through the system with minimum effort and work from you.

How Can My Attorney Help Represent Me in Front of a Social Security Administrative Law Judge at a Hearing?

If needed, your social security disability attorney will file the necessary appeals for you. According to the Social Security Administration, less than forty percent of social security disability applications are approved at the initial application level. If your case is one that receives an initial denial, you are entitled to appeal the decision. The appeals process contains several specific and distinct steps that much each be completed within a certain amount of time. Hiring and retaining a social security disability attorney can help you navigate the appeals process, should your initial application be denied. To that end, your social security disability attorney will represent you at disability hearings, if necessary. The majority of successful disability claims are won at the hearing level. If you are originally denied disability benefits and you and your attorney appeal the decision, you are offered a hearing in front of an administrative law judge.

The hearing process is stressful, and having adequate preparation is critical to your success. Having a social security disability attorney will ensure that you are adequately prepared for your hearing. Though you will still need to speak for yourself, your social security disability attorney will represent you during the process and prepare you to testify. Your social security disability attorney will ask questions of your witnesses and address any expert witnesses, such as medical or vocational experts. If you have already been granted social security disability benefits but feel that you are not receiving adequate compensation, your social security disability attorney can help you request additional financial aid in the form of SSI benefits.

Your chances of success when applying for social security disability benefits dramatically improve if you are working with a social security disability attorney. Even if you are struggling financially due to your illness, hiring and working with a social security disability benefits attorney is well worth your time, energy, and money when you consider that without their help, winning your case can be exponentially more difficult. If you are overwhelmed by the social security disability benefits application process and would like some assistance from qualified, experienced individuals, contact Lawrence & Associates today. We can help you obtain that fresh start that you deserve! Call today for a free consultation at (859) 371.5997. We’re Working Hard for the Working Class, and we want to help you!

Social Security Disability: Five FAQs and Facts

Posted on Tuesday, June 19th, 2018 at 2:59 pm    

Enduring the process of applying for Social Security Benefits can be extremely stressful to any person. Fortunately, we are here to help ease your mind and speed up the process. In this blog, we are going to cover five frequently asked questions and other facts about Social Security Disability Income.

ONE: What Conditions Qualify for Disability Benefits?

One of the most common questions we hear when talking to social security disability candidates is this: “What disabilities qualify for benefits?” One way that the Social Security Administration answers that question is by using a Listing of Impairments (Part A) also known as the “Blue Book.” The Blue Book has several categories and is then broken down to sub categories.

The main categories for adults are listed below:

  • Musculoskeletal System
  • Special Senses and Speech
  • Respiratory Disorders
  • Cardiovascular System
  • Digestive System
  • Genitourinary Disorders
  • Hematological Disorders
  • Skin Disorders
  • Endocrine Disorders
  • Congenital Disorders that Affect Multiple Body Systems
  • Neurological Disorders
  • Mental Disorders
  • Cancer (Malignant Neoplastic Diseases)
  • Immune System Disorders

The Blue Book also has a Listing of Impairments for Children (Part B). The children’s Listing of Impairments is broken down into main categories and sub categories as well.

The main categories for children are listed below:

  • Low Birth Weight and Failure to Thrive
  • Musculoskeletal System
  • Special Senses and Speech
  • Respiratory Disorders
  • Cardiovascular System
  • Digestive System
  • Genitourinary Disorders
  • Hematological Disorders
  • Skin Disorders
  • Endocrine Disorders
  • Congenital Disorders that Affect Multiple Body Systems
  • Neurological Disorders
  • Mental Disorders
  • Cancer (Malignant Neoplastic Diseases)
  • Immune System Disorders

The Social Security Administration describes the Listing of Impairments as: “Impairments considered severe enough to prevent an individual from doing any gainful activity (or in the case of children under age 18 applying for SSI, severe enough to cause marked and severe functional limitations).”

TWO: My Disability is listed in the Blue Book. Do I Still Need an Attorney?

You may have a disability that is displayed on the Listing of Impairments, but may not be seen as “severe enough” by the SSA to fulfill eligibility requirements. Your disability must then be proved “severe enough” to qualify.

Even if your disability is listed, your benefits are not automatic. By hiring an experienced Social Security Attorney, you are letting go of the reins and letting a professional take over. So many people have had applications denied because of mistakes on their applications. Don’t let this happen to you.

THREE: My Doctor Says I am Disabled. Why do I Keep Getting Denied by the SSA?

The SSA may have denied you for medical reasons. In order to prove you have an impairment that is found in the Blue Book, you will need to obtain proper medical evidence that supports what you have claimed to be disabled for. Your attorney can obtain this medical evidence by requesting medical records, reports and more from your doctor(s).

FOUR: What is the Importance of My Attorney Getting Medical Records for My Case?

Claims for Disability benefits are approved or denied based on medical evidence. Medical records establish the severity of your impairment and helps the SSA understand your disability.

According to The Code of Federal Regulations, medical evidence that can be used or submitted with your claim include:

    • Objective Medical Evidence
      • Medical Signs
      • Laboratory Findings
    • Medical Opinion
      • This can be a report from your doctor stating things that you CAN do, despite your impairment.
    • Other Medical Evidence
      • Medical History
      • Clinical Findings
      • Diagnosis and more

If your application lacks these key evidence types, your claim could be denied. An attorney can request these medical records for your claim and help your claim get approved.

FIVE: Can I Work While Getting Disability Benefits?

SSDI recipients generally can’t do Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) while receiving full benefits. The SSA describes SGA as “A term used to describe a level of work activity and earnings. Work is “substantial” if it involves doing significant physical or mental activities or a combination of both.” They describe “Gainful” Work activity as “Work performed for pay or profit, work of a nature generally performed for pay or profit, or work intended for profit, whether or not a profit is realized.” Your eligibility for SSDI benefits depends on whether or not you are able to do SGA.

SGA has two parts. Hours worked and income earned. If you work more than 20 hours per week that is SGA and will cause you to be ineligible to received benefits. According to the SSA the income portion of SGA for 2018 “for statutorily blind individuals for 2018 is $1970. For non-blind individuals, the monthly SGA amount for 2018 is $1180. SGA for the blind does not apply to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, while SGA for the non-blind disabled applies to Social Security and SSI benefits.” In other words, if you are a non-blind individual, you can make up to $1,180 per month while receiving benefits and for blind individuals, you can receive up to $1,970 per month while receiving benefits. According to the history of SGA amounts, they have slightly increased almost every year since 1975. This is because the amounts change based on the National Average Wage Index.

If you are concerned about your application to the Social Security Administration for SSI or SSDI, call Lawrence & Associates to talk to one of our trained intake specialists about setting up a completely free consultation to talk to one of our Social Security Attorneys. Lawrence & Associates will be with you every step of the way and will help you fight for your benefits. We practice Social Security in the states of Ohio and Kentucky.

Call us today to find out how we can help you now!

Warnings to Injured Workers in the Ohio Workers’ Compensation System

Posted on Monday, June 11th, 2018 at 11:31 am    

Compensation: When most people hear the word “compensation” they think of monetary recovery. While there is monetary recovery involved in Ohio Worker’s Compensation, it is only one of several benefits available to injured workers. In fact, Ohio Workers’ Compensation provides many forms of recovery that are valuable, but do not come in the form of a check or monetary award. These valuable benefits are unique to Workers’ Compensation and are often times not available in civil lawsuits. However, these added benefits do come as somewhat of a “tradeoff” as some of the monetary recovery received via the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation is smaller in amount or may seem less significant at first glance when compared to the monetary recovery that can be common in civil litigation. This blog discusses some of the unique aspects of the Ohio Worker’s Compensation system; pointing out both the positives and the negatives for injured workers as compared to more typical civil litigation lawsuits.

In order to receive any Ohio Workers’ Compensation benefits, monetary or otherwise, a claim must first be allowed by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. Before wasting your time, energy, and resources spinning your wheels to see if your claim is allowed you will want to consult with an attorney who specializes in Ohio Workers’ Compensation. What they tell you may surprise you. For example – did you know that Ohio is a “no fault” state? This means that no showing of breach of duty on the part of the employer is required for the allowance of a claim. Unlike commonplace civil litigation the defendant need not do anything wrong, careless, or negligent. If an employee is hurt in the course of, and arising out of, the injured employee’s employment they are covered! The actions the employer took, or failed to take to prevent such an accident are most times irrelevant.

While this no fault system may lead an injured worker to believe it is easy to get their claim allowed and compensation awarded, there are many other hurtles the injured worker may be unaware of that will cause their claim to be denied if not handled correctly. For example, if an employee legitimately gets hurt at work, but hurts a part of their body that has been hurt previously, or may not be perfect to begin with due to the natural aging process, the allowance of such claim may be fought by several other parties at several levels on the basis that it was a preexisting condition. Another situation in which it is nearly impossible to get a claim allowed is for a psychological condition. While Ohio does recognize psychological conditions in certain situations, there are particular procedures and requirements which must be met to receive benefits for psychological injuries. Another quite common scenario is for a claim to be initially allowed for a very minor injury, such as a sprain or strain, but then to not be recognized for the true, but more expensive condition suffered such as radiculopathy or torn muscles and ligaments which will require surgery. Only an experienced Ohio Worker’s Compensation attorney can help overcome these common obstacles in receiving the benefits an Injured Worker may be entitled to.

Where’s the money?

Generally speaking there is a lot less monetary compensation paid to plaintiffs in Ohio Workers’ Compensation than would be recovered for the exact same injury in a Personal Injury lawsuit. The reason for this is twofold: First, there are benefits for plaintiffs hurt at the work place that are not available to plaintiffs in Personal Injury lawsuits; these benefits will be spelled out later on in this blog article. Secondly, as a counter balance to some of those benefits to the injured worker, there are no punitive damages (in other words no pain and suffering) imposed on the employers of a Workers’ Compensation claim, unless there is a special circumstance known as a VSSR.

So, now that we’ve established that plaintiffs tend to recover significantly less money through Workers’ Compensation as compared to other civil litigation, let’s talk about how much money is involved and when an injured worker can expect to receive it. There are usually two situations in which an injured worker can expect to receive monetary compensation in a typical Ohio Workers’ Compensation Claim. The first is known as Temporary Total Disability, or TTD for short. An Injured Worker becomes eligible for TTD when they miss eight or more consecutive days of work and a Doctor has taken them off of work via a form called a MEDCO14. Therefore, plaintiffs who have missed less than eight consecutive days or do not have a MEDCO14 completely filled out and clearly stating that they have work restrictions that prevent them from returning to work will not be eligible for TTD. This is one reason why it pays to have an attorney in your corner. Oftentimes Doctors who are unfamiliar with such required forms will fail to fill them out or fill these forms out riddled with errors. These mistakes can cost injured workers thousands of dollars in TTD, so you will want someone who is familiar with these requirements to advocate on your behalf to your doctor.

The next question you may have is, “how much TTD can I expect to get?”

This number is calculated by statute and is dependent on the wage you were earning prior to your workplace injury. This calculation is set out by the Ohio Revised Code and can be complex and confusing to understand. Therefore it is important to consult with an attorney to ensure you are not being shortchanged on the TTD you receive. One aspect of this type of wage loss recovery that differs from its civil litigation counterparts is that TTD is capped every year by state statute. For example, injured workers receiving TTD in 2018, can receive no more than 902 dollars per week, regardless of what they were earning prior to their injury.

The second major situation an injured worker is typically eligible for monetary compensation is much later on in their claim when they have been determined by a doctor to have reached Maximum Medical Improvement, or MMI. MMI is defined by Ohio statute as “a treatment plateau (static or well-stabilized) at which no fundamental functional or physiological change can be expected within reasonable medical probability in spite of continuing medical or rehabilitative procedures.” However, reaching MMI does not necessarily mean the injured worker is %100 recovered. Again the monetary compensation is set out by the Ohio Revised Code, which provides a calculation that is based on the Permanent Partial Disability the injured worker has sustained. By way of example, if an injured worker reaches MMI, but is determined to only be 90% recovered, their compensation will be based on the remaining 10% Permanent Partial Disability. Much like TTD, this calculation is confusing and the process for obtaining this award is complex. This is another component of Workers’ Compensation in which an attorney who specializes in Ohio Workers’ Compensation will add tremendous value to your claim.

Other possible, but far less common Workers’ Compensation monetary benefits can include: working wage loss, VSSR, death benefits, and living maintenance. Only an attorney with experience in Ohio Workers’ Compensation will be able to identify if these special benefits are entitled to a particular injury or claim.

Other than monetary compensation, Ohio Workers’ Compensation provides injured workers with medical treatment and rehabilitation that can often times far outweigh the value of compensation paid via TTD and Permanent Partial Disability. The Ohio Workers’ Compensation system is designed to enable Injured Workers to be treated and get back to work as soon as possible. Therefore if an injury or disease is determined to be work related, treatment for such aliment is covered through the Workers’ Compensation System. Such treatment can include, but is not limited to surgeries, diagnostic tests such as MRIs and x-rays, physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, and pain management. However, for this valuable treatment to be covered through your Workers’ Compensation claim, the treatment must be deemed reasonable and necessary to treat a condition that has been formally allowed in the claim. Again, getting both conditions and treatments allowed is confusing and time consuming. If a condition or treatment is denied an injured worker may only have a short amount of time to figure out how to appeal it. This is when an attorney with Ohio Workers’ Compensation experience can make a remarkable difference in your claim.

Due to the fact that so many of these benefits are received by the injured worker before the end of their claim, the payout at the end in the form of Permanent Partial Disability, is much less than what would be recovered for the same injury in civil litigation. In other words, if a person were to recover for an accident through a personal injury lawsuit, that person would have to front all of their own medical treatment, and come up with income during time missed from work, then at the end of their treatment they would recover all of the money spent on medical bills, lost on missed wages, and even be compensated for their pain and suffering. In Ohio Workers’ Compensation however, the Injured Worker will be receiving most of these benefits as they work through the claim, and because the Ohio Workers’ Compensation system is set up to get workers back to work rather than to punish employers the monetary sum at the end will almost always be quite less than the same injury would result in through a Personal Injury claim.

Many injured workers are surprised to find out that even after reaching MMI and getting a Permanent Partial Disability award, there may be further benefits an injured worker is entitled to, that only an attorney with Ohio Workers’ Compensation experience will be able to identify. These can include maintenance treatment, vocational rehabilitation, and even future increases in Permanent Partial Disability.

So the next question you might be asking yourself is, “Yes I can see that having an attorney who understands the complexities of the Ohio Workers’ Compensation system is important. But I am out of work and how am I supposed to pay an attorney?”

The good news is that most Workers’ Compensation Attorneys work on a contingency basis. Meaning, the attorney only gets paid a percentage of money they recover for you. Therefore, just as most injured workers are eligible for monetary awards twice during their claim, so also attorneys get paid for their work most commonly at these two junctures as well: when back due TTD is awarded, and at the resolution of the case upon reaching MMI. “What about when my attorney wins additional conditions, diagnostic tests, or treatment for me?” You might ask. Most attorneys will only charge a very small and nominal fee for this type of service if that attorney feels that the Injured Worker is not likely eligible for any of the monetary compensation to which they would collect a typical fee for. If the attorney is certain that there is lost time at issue in the claim, or a Permanent Partial Disability has been suffered by the injured worker, any work done to get treatment allowed will be done at no additional charge.

Last, but certainly not least are some time frames that injured workers should be well aware of. The first is that of a short 14 day appeal deadline. Oftentimes when an aspect of a claim, or a claim in its entirety is not allowed an Injured Worker may have only 14 days to appeal such a decision. Additionally, disputes over the allowance of benefits necessitate Injured Workers to appear at various hearings and medical exams on quite little notice. Thus, an injured worker does not want to delay in getting an attorney. In order to make sure you have representation at such hearings, and to ensure you do not miss appeal deadlines, it is in your own best interest to retain an attorney as early as possible.

In sum, Ohio Workers’ Compensation is a complex area of the law. Attorneys and non-attorneys alike may has some understanding of what to expect in a run of the mill civil lawsuit, but these understandings and expectations cannot be applied in the same way to Ohio Workers’ Compensation claims. Before you find yourself in over your head, or facing a deadline that you do not understand come in for a free consultation with one of our attorneys who specializes in Ohio Workers’ Compensation.

The Personal Injury of Never Playing Again: Damages for Athletes in Southern Ohio and Northern Kentucky

Posted on Tuesday, June 5th, 2018 at 8:32 am    

The following article was written by William Doering, a former law clerk at Lawrence and Associates. Doering is currently a student at Chase Law and pursuing a Juris Doctorate.

Personal injury cases happen all the time. Most are run-of-the-mill in terms liability and damages. However, there are always extraneous circumstances where damages can be more complex. Each individual plaintiff will require a different amount and type of damages depending on the facts of the accident and the plaintiff’s life circumstances. After accidents, plaintiffs are concerned with being able to do the activities that they were able to do before the accident. Plaintiffs who are no longer able to do certain activities following a personal injury accident may be compensated for that loss. For many, playing sports is an activity that plaintiffs lose the ability to do after an accident.

Suppose for instance that you are an athlete who has just been in a motor vehicle accident. The injury caused by the negligent third party has left you unable to play your respective sport. Damages are proper to help pay for the value of your damaged vehicle, your medical bills, and future treatment. However, you also have the ability to claim damages for being unable to play sports in the form of loss of enjoyment of life. We’ve previously written about damages on several occasions. This blog will describe the basics of personal injury damages, explain the purpose and function of loss of enjoyment of life damages, then describe damages for pro and semi-pro sports players, and discuss how to claim these damages in a tort lawsuit in both Kentucky and Ohio.

What Kinds of Damages Are Allowed in Kentucky and Ohio?

In all successful tort claims, plaintiffs will be able to claim compensatory damages. These can be either general damages or special damages. The American Jurisprudence defines general damages as “those that are the natural and necessary result of the wrongful act or omission asserted” in the complaint. These damages compensate the plaintiff for any loss, injury, or damage such as property damage or medical bills resulting from an accident. Special damages, sometimes called hedonic damages, are another form of compensatory damages. These damages encompass “damages for a harm other than one for which general damages were given.” Special damages can include expenses like loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, pain and suffering, lost wages, mileage, or lost profits.

When claiming special damages, plaintiff must show that they received a great deal of bodily harm; past what general damages can cover. Special damages are calculated separately from one another depending on the jurisdiction; i.e. loss of enjoyment of life will be judged as a separate and distinct category of damages from pain and suffering. Kentucky does not recognize loss of enjoyment damages as a separate claim. However, loss of enjoyment damages may be considered as evidence in determining the severity of injuries, general damages, or pain and suffering. In limited circumstances, Ohio does see loss of enjoyment damages as a separate claim. The reasoning is that Ohio courts see loss of enjoyment damages as a loss of positive experiences rather than an infliction of negative experiences. In calculating loss of enjoyment damages, Ohio limits recovery to circumstances of the injury that were not already addressed in the general damages. This ensures that there are no excess damages awarded to the plaintiff.

What Special Damages Do Kentucky and Ohio Allow Professional Athletes to Claim?

Claiming damages for inability to enjoy sports requires a showing that the harm suffered resulted in a “loss of ability to engage in sports or recreational activities, … loss of a desired vocation or avocation, loss of use of a limb, … or miscellaneous losses” as the court deems fit. A plaintiff must have “developed the ability to perform a pleasurable activity or hobby specifically identified to his or her lifestyle.” There must be an adequate showing that the plaintiff regularly participated in and enjoyed the activities which they can no longer do because of the injury suffered.

If the plaintiff is an athlete with potential to play college, semi-professional, or professional sports, that factor is taken into consideration. However, this type of predictive futures damage is harder to prove. Courts err on the side of caution before awarding these damages because they must be a precise as possible. Not every person injured in a car accident will make it to the pros. Thus, not all plaintiffs should be able to claim these extra damages for potential lost financial damages. Courts will only rule in favor of extra damages in this manner if an athlete was already playing sports at a higher level or if they were certain to play them and have some form of monetary gain from playing them in the near future.

Loss of enjoyment damages are real damages that can be claimed from a personal injury accident. Courts in Kentucky and Ohio allow for them to be claimed following an injury; they are just argued differently. If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence and can no longer enjoy playing sports, you can be compensated for this loss of enjoyment. Make sure to talk to a legal professional about your options if you think you can claim these damages. The legal system may not get you back to playing sports again but it can fairly compensate you for the loss of those positive experiences in life.

Are you a pro or semi-pro athlete that has been injured in an automobile accident or as a result of someone else’s negligence? Don’t go it alone! Lawrence & Associates has helped thousands of people recover for their injuries, and we know how to fully recover for your damages. We’re Working Hard for the Working Class, and we want to help you!

Why You Shouldn’t Feel Bad for Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Posted on Thursday, May 31st, 2018 at 8:28 am    

At the time I’m writing this, I’ve been in practice for over 13 years, and I’ve filed thousands of personal injury lawsuits in Ohio and Kentucky for everything from car accidents and slip-and-falls to products liability and boating accidents. I’m proud of what I do. I get a lot of injured people medical treatment that they’d never have gotten otherwise. I help widows keep their homes. I help hard working men and women get the money to pay back the debts they incur while they’re off work and recuperating from surgeries. But no matter whether I’m in Kentucky or Ohio, no matter who is across the desk from me at a consultation, there is one comment I hear more than any other: “I’m not the kind of person that normally sues people.”

This comment never fails to amaze me. There isn’t a kind of person that sues people. Personal injury lawyers don’t get repeat customers. On the rare occasion that I have seen the same person back in my office, I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than two lawsuits. But more than that, “I’m not the kind of person that normally sues people” speaks to a kind of shame associated with the civil justice system. 
“I’m not the kind of person that normally sues people” means that nearly everyone who walks into my office thinks only bad people sue other people. We all know that doesn’t hold water. We’ve all driven past accidents where the ambulance is already removing a driver that was rear ended or t-boned; do we really believe the guy in the ambulance is a bad person for suing the one who put him there?

But really, the ridiculousness of “I’m not the kind of person that normally sues people” goes deeper than that. There are a lot of reasons that lawsuits are good things, so long as they are handled by good lawyers. That so many people don’t understand that speaks to a long history of disinformation about the civil justice system, including things like the myth of the McDonald’s Hot Coffee and a series of widely believed email forwards from the early 1990s. When you set aside falsehoods and think about it, there are many reasons you should file a personal injury lawsuit if someone else hurts you.

It’s Your Constitutional Right, and It’s Better Than Any Alternatives

Today, many politically minded people swear by the founding fathers. The original meaning behind the Constitution, both federal and state, is the cornerstone of Libertarian and most Conservative political theories, and in the Greater Cincinnati area where I practice, a large percentage of registered voters identify as Libertarian, Republican, or Conservative. On top of that, in this area it is typically Democratic elected representatives that are the staunchest defenders of the jury trial system. With that in mind, it is worth remembering that the Seventh Amendment in the Bill of Rights to our federal Constitution states:

“In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”

Section Seven of Kentucky’s Constitution goes further, saying:

“The ancient mode of trial by jury shall be held sacred, and the right thereof remain inviolate, subject to such modifications as may be authorized by this Constitution.”

Section Five of the Ohio Constitution states:

“The right of trial by jury shall be inviolate, except that, in civil cases, laws may be passed to authorize the rendering of a verdict by the concurrence of not less than three-fourths of the jury.”

There is a reason the founding fathers of every state, and of the federal government, made sure to enshrine the jury trial system: it provides for a peaceful resolution of conflicts while making sure the wrongdoer – the one that hurts, the one that takes, the one that breaks – is brought to justice. Prior to the jury trial system, it was common for people to fight duels, or for might to make right. Today, lawsuits are common and duels don’t exist. No one dies over defamation, or for being an inattentive driver. And no one should get away with it either. The beauty of the lawsuit is that it brings peaceful justice for men and women that have been wronged. Without it, we’d be back to the kind of 18th century justice our forefathers fought to prevent.

Everyone Is Insured (and If They Aren’t They’re Breaking the Law)

That was all well and good for the 1700s, you might say, but does it really apply today? Yes, and even more so than it did when the Constitution was written. Back then, a defendant losing a lawsuit might have to pay a princely sum of money; maybe enough to have to mortgage the family farm, or lose a business. Today, that fear doesn’t apply because almost everyone and everything is insured.

The most familiar form of insurance is auto insurance, which all Americans are required by law to get, but it isn’t the only kind. There is property insurance, general liability insurance, homeowner’s policies, farmowner’s policies, malpractice insurance, umbrella policies; you name it, and the insurance industry already thought of it thirty years ago. All those insurance policies not only mean that no one has to sell their house because they lost a lawsuit, but they also change the very nature of filing a lawsuit.

Let’s take automobile insurance as an example. An insurance policy is a contract. The insurance company says they will cover a driver for a specific amount of money if he or she causes an accident, and in exchange they want a certain amount each month as a premium. Let’s say that driver pays the premiums, and a few months down the line, rear ends you while you’re driving your car. You’re taken away by ambulance, and later file a lawsuit to cover your medical bills and the wages you missed while being off work.

When you file that lawsuit, you aren’t saying you want the other driver to pay you. You’re saying you want the insurance company to honor its contract. The money doesn’t come from the other driver’s pocket. It comes from the insurance company. The insurance company took the premiums, and they are supposed to pay for the damages. The lawsuit only happens if they don’t honor their contractual obligations. Feeling guilty for forcing an automobile insurance company to honor its contractual obligations makes no more sense that feeling guiling for forcing your health insurance company to pay for medical bills.

Lawsuits Help Your Doctor and Health Insurance Company Get Paid, Too

It’s worth bringing up another common myth about lawsuits: the money doesn’t really all go to the injured person. Yes, they take some home and yes, the attorney gets paid. But most people don’t realize that doctors often receive money as a result of a successful Workers’ Compensation lawsuit by an injured person against an insurance company. Also, every successful lawsuit against an automobile insurance company like Statefarm means a health insurance company like Humana gets reimbursed for the bills they paid. The logic is simple: one person or company caused the harm, and that person or company should pay for the harm. A doctor should not bear the burden of medical bills that cannot be paid, any more than the injured man or woman should bear the burden of being unable to put food on the table while they recover from surgery. A lawsuit against someone that is liable for negligence helps many people, not just the person hurt by the negligence.

Lawsuits Make Everyone Safer

We’ve all seen warnings that you can’t believe had to be printed, like a ridiculous commercial that tells you not try some obviously stupid act at home. It’s all the lawsuits, people think, that made that dumb warning appear. This is a part of the myth of the lawsuit too – do a little research and you’ll usually find that no one ever tried to sue over whatever dumb warning you saw. Generally, they are a part of an overabundance of caution on the part of companies that never bothered to ask a lawyer if they could be sued in the first place.

But some warnings do appear because of lawsuits. Like the warning that cigarettes can cause cancer, or that taking too much Tylenol can be fatal. Lawsuits also brought us the fire escape, the seatbelt, and the safety stop on saw blades. When used properly, the lawsuit is a force for good and drives the creation of new technology and new processes that make all Americans safer for decades to come.

It isn’t that there aren’t bad lawsuits. There are. Sometimes unhappy people file lawsuits on their own without a lawyer, which is generally a recipe for disaster. Sometimes bad lawyers with bad goals file bad lawsuits. But those lawsuits are the rare headline grabbers that cast a shadow on the good lawsuits, good lawyers, and good people who have been hurt through no fault of their own. If you have been hurt, and know someone else is at fault, don’t let the myth of the bad lawsuit cause you to deny yourself your right of recovery. If you’re a good person, get a good lawyer and get the justice you deserve.

If you have any other questions about Personal Injury or Workers’ Compensation lawsuits, please call our Fort Mitchell, Kentucky office at 859-371-5997 or our West Chester, Ohio office at 513-351-5997. We have helped over 3,000 clients and help a new, deserving person every day. We’re Working Hard for the Working Class, and we want to help you!

Why Is a Treating Doctor an Important Part of a Worker’s Compensation Case?

Posted on Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018 at 12:39 pm    

When a worker gets injured at work, they aren’t thinking about which doctor to go to. They are hurt and want medical attention and that’s about as far as the thought process goes. In contrast, the insurance company has already given the subject a lot of thought. Often insurance companies have pre-selected the doctor’s office they want an injured worker to treat with. While their medical treatment is not controlled by the insurance company directly, these offices are in long-standing relationships with the workers’ compensation carrier.

Under Kentucky workers’ compensation law, medical treatment is controlled by a “designated physician” this is a doctor the injured worker selects on what is known as a “Form 113”. Sometimes an insurance company will fill in the Form 113 with a physician’s office of their choosing. However, the injured worker has the right to pick their own doctor.

The selection of a Form 113 doctor is crucially important. This doctor is the “quarterback” of the injured worker’s medical team. They are the physician who calls the medical plays, so to speak. This doctor determines whether a referral to a specialist is necessary, and they often make a recommendation as to which specialist to see. This in turn determines whether an injured worker gets diagnostic testing such as MRIs and whether the injured worker gets surgical care.

For the selected doctor, the decision on medical care is actually twofold, not only are they determining whether they think there is a medical need for treatment, they are deciding whether or not the treatment is work-related. For example, let’s say you twisted your knee at work. If your doctor is of the mindset that you need surgery now but consider that part of that surgery is to treat an arthritic condition, they might determine that you cannot have the surgery under workers’ compensation coverage. This might be the case even though you 1) got hurt at work, 2) there were witnesses 3) you had never once received any kind of medical care for arthritis or for your knees in your entire life!

When a doctor makes this decision they are not necessarily following the law. In Kentucky it is well-established that if a worker has some kind of condition that pre-existed the work injury, but was dormant i.e. it never bothered them before the work injury so they weren’t under medical care for it and then the condition becomes problematic after the work injury then both the work injury itself AND the prior dormant condition can be treated under the workers compensation carrier coverage. If the injured worker is off work while this treatment is undertaken, they may qualify for income benefits.

This makes the doctor’s decision very important. If a doctor does not agree with the law, say, due to their political stance, or if the doctor simply is unaware of the law, the treatment and income benefits the injured worker is entitled to may get denied. As you can see, it is extremely important that an injured worker gets a treating physician that either already has an understanding of the legal ramifications of the decisions they make or is at least willing to listen and learn. Sadly, not all doctors are.

An understanding of the workers’ compensation system is not the only requirement for the right treating physician. An insurance company is in business to make money. They do not make money by paying for medical care or paying an injured worker income benefits. Therefore, they will do things to try and minimize the amount they pay out. One of the things the insurance company will do is challenge the medical treatment through a process called utilization review, or peer review. In these scenarios the insurance company has hired a doctor, or often a nurse, to review the records to see if they believe the injured worker should get the medical care their doctor asked for. The reviewer will not see the patient, not even once, they will often refer to what are called the Official Disability Guidelines, and commonly they will determine that the treatment is not compensable. In the denial they will often state that they attempted to call the treating doctor but could not get through. The treating doctor has the right to appeal the decision of the reviewer, but they have a limited amount of time. It is very important that the injured worker has a doctor who is willing to answer the call and to respond to the denial when it comes. If the doctor simply doesn’t bother, the injured worker may have to litigate just to get their medical care, and this can take months. If the injured worker gives up, then the insurance company saves a bunch of money.

The treating doctor has an important role to play in the amount of income benefits an injured worker receives. This is because these benefits are calculated using an impairment rating provided by the physician. Many times, a hired expert will give an opinion on the percentage of impairment, and a good attorney will know which experts to use. However, the Administrative Law Judges often consider the view of the treating physician to be very significant. If your treating doctor is unwilling to figure out your impairment, or if they are unfamiliar with the process, they will not be assisting your case.

The treating doctor will be the one who assesses work restrictions, in other words they determine whether an injured worker can go back to work. Often the insurance company will employ a nurse case manager who will question the doctor on this issue. The injured worker will want a physician that is willing and able to justify their decision on work restrictions under this kind of challenge.

At Lawrence & Associates we describe the physicians that do these things as “patient advocates”. While proper medical care is essential, patient advocacy is always very important too.

Employee Deaths on the Job: What Benefits Do Ohio and Kentucky Workers’ Compensation Provide?

Posted on Thursday, May 10th, 2018 at 8:15 am    

The saddest day at Lawrence & Associates is when our attorneys sit down with a grieving widow, widower, or family member to discuss the workplace death of a loved one. Injuries are bad enough – always painful, often debilitating – but injuries can heal. When a family member dies, however, we are left with the difficult task of explaining how the Workers’ Compensation law compensates for a death the cold math and dollars and cents. Often called “survivors’ benefits,” they do anything but make the survivor whole. However, since our firm is located in the Cincinnati area and therefore workers with deceased workers’ families in both Kentucky and Ohio, we have seen big differences in how the law handles compensation for employee’s deaths. The deficiencies in the Workers’ Compensation system for these tragedies may shock you.

Worker Deaths in Ohio – What Benefits are Owed to the Family?

Ohio’s Workers’ Compensation system has three types of benefits. There is a death benefit that is paid to the deceased workers’ estate in one lump sum, a provision for payment of all medical bills incurred before death, and a benefit to dependents that is paid on a weekly or bi-weekly basis from the date of the worker’s death onward. Of these three, the medical benefit is the easiest to describe – 100% of all medical bills must be paid directly to the provider. No money goes to the deceased’s estate or family related to the medical bills.

The death benefit in Ohio is truly shocking – Ohio Revised Code 4123.66 only allows $5,500 dollars for funeral expenses, and no other amount for the deceased workers’ pain and suffering or loss of future earnings. Compare this to a person that dies in a car accident, who can sometimes get millions of dollars for pain and suffering or loss of future earnings. Assume, for a moment, that a 40 year person earns $10/hour and is killed. Even if you only paid their family for their loss of future earnings going forward with no allowance for inflation or wage raises, that 40 year old would earn $561,600 before reaching social security retirement age. The $5,500 offered by Ohio’s Workers’ Compensation system is paltry by comparison, and many commenters have observed that it makes it cheaper for a company to kill a worker than to injure the worker. Unfortunately, until Ohio’s state legislature changes this law, Ohio workers are stuck with a $5,500 death benefit.

Ohio is friendlier to the dependents of the deceased worker, so long as those dependents are spouses or children. Under ORC 4123.59, both receive two-thirds of the “average weekly wage” the worker had before he or she died. Spouses receive this money until they re-marry, at which time they receive two years of this benefit as a lump sum and then cease receiving it. Children receive this benefit until they turn eighteen, unless they are in school (in which case the benefit continues until the child turns twenty-five), or unless the child is incapable of having a job for other reasons (such as a physical or mental disability). However, fully dependent parents or siblings of the deceased worker cannot receive any benefit whatsoever.

The failings of Ohio’s system are laid bare when you consider the example of June. June was a civil engineer. She worked her way through school and, by age 30, she had an excellent job with a construction company making $120,000 per year. She was responsible for caring for her younger brother, who had severe mental retardation, and who lived with her. (Her parents had died several years before.) But June was killed in an on-site accident at age 33. Because her brother is not provided for by statute, and because June’s small family did not have the resources to care for him, he was forced to go to an assisted living facility. And because Ohio’s laws provide such a poor death benefit, June’s death was compensated only by paying $5,500 – which covered only 75% of her funeral costs. Surely there has to be a better way.

Worker Deaths in Kentucky – What Benefits are Owed to the Family?

Much like Ohio, Kentucky’s system provides for full payment of all medical bills, a death benefit, and a weekly or bi-weekly benefit to the deceased worker’s dependents. However, Kentucky’s provisions are much more generous. First, Kentucky’s death benefit is updated every year to account for inflation, and as of 2018 is currently sits at $83,336.22. This amount is paid directly into the deceased workers’ estate. Kentucky’s Department of Workers’ Claims updates the death benefit on their website every year.

In addition, Kentucky Revised Code 342.750 provides benefits to more people than Ohio’s law does. General guidelines are as follows:

  1. In Kentucky, a surviving spouse with no children gets 50% of the deceased employee’s average weekly wage. Upon remarriage, the spouse also receives a two year lump sum.
  2. If there are surviving children and a surviving spouse, the spouse gets 45% if the kids live with him or her, and 40% if not. The children get 15% for each child, not to exceed 30% total. If there are more than two children, each child gets an equal share of 30% of the average weekly wage. The child’s benefit ends when the child turns eighteen, unless they are in school (in which case the benefit continues until the child turns twenty-two), or unless the child is incapable of having a job for other reasons (such as a physical or mental disability).
  3. Actually dependent siblings, parents, and grandparents can receive 25% of the deceased workers’ average weekly wage.

Considering June’s example, above, it is easy to see that Kentucky’s system is superior. The death benefit would have more than covered the funeral expenses, and would have created a nest egg for a family member to help take care of June’s brother. And the weekly benefit for June’s brother would have continued to provide June’s family a way to care for him going forward. While both Ohio’s and Kentucky’s systems could use some tweaking and updating, Kentucky does a far better job of taking care of its’ deceased workers’ families.

If you have any other questions about Survivor Benefits in Workers’ Compensation cases, please call our Fort Mitchell, Kentucky office at 859-371-5997 or our West Chester, Ohio office at 513-351-5997. We are one of the largest workers’ compensation firms in Greater Cincinnati and we have helped over 3,000 clients. We’re Working Hard for the Working Class, and we want to help you!

The Benefits Available Through Workers’ Compensation in Cincinnati, Ohio

Posted on Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018 at 10:13 am    

The following post is part of our Law Student Blog Writing Project, and is authored by Thomas Rovito, who is pursuing his Juris Doctorate at the Ohio State University.

When one thinks of workers’ compensation, a person may reasonably think of it as a monolithic concept. However, when the theory meets reality, Ohio workers’ compensation includes several varieties, such as medical care, temporary disability, partial disability, permanent total disability, and benefits in case of death, all with unique characteristics under Chapter 4123 of the Ohio Revised Code.

Before reaching the characteristics of the unique varieties of workers’ compensation in Ohio, it is important to take stock of readily available and free resources on this topic. First, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and the Ohio Attorney General’s Workers’ Compensation Section have free resources from the state on this topic. While the webpages of the state agencies can be hard to navigate, they do have in-depth publications for injured worker, such as BWC Basics for Injured Workers and Compensation Types. Third-party legal websites Nolo and Findlaw have great information on this topic available for free. In addition, professional groups like the Ohio State Bar Association maintain readily available pamphlets on this topic.

Now, let’s turn to the characteristics of the unique varieties of workers’ compensation in Ohio.

I. Medical Care (O.R.C. § 4123.66)

This benefit includes “the amounts for medical, nurse, and hospital services and medicine as the administrator deems proper” under O.R.C. § 4123.66(A). In addition, this section includes “reasonable funeral expenses in an amount not to exceed fifty-five hundred dollars” if “death ensues from the injury or occupational disease.” If the injury damages the “eyeglasses, artificial teeth or other denture, or hearing aid” of the worker, they will be entitled to “a reasonable amount to repair or replace the same.” This statute also outlines the counter of the first prescription drug refill and welfare plans, which are further fleshed out in administrative rules derived from the statute.

II. Temporary Disability (O.R.C. § 4123.56)

Under temporary disability, “an employee shall receive sixty-six and two-thirds per cent of the employee’s average weekly wage so long as such disability is total” with a few internal threshold caveats as described in Chapter 4123. If the injury persists and prevents the clamant from working in the professional opinion of a certified medical doctor, after two hundred weeks the clamant must report for a determination by the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation for a permanent disability status determination. In addition, if the employee suffers a wage loss “as a result of returning to employment other than the employee’s former position of employment due to an injury or occupational disease” or “as a result of being unable to find employment consistent with the employee’s disability resulting from the employee’s injury or occupational disease,” then the employee is entitled to “compensation at sixty-six and two-thirds per cent of the difference between the employee’s average weekly wage and the employee’s present earnings, not to exceed the statewide average weekly wage” which cannot go beyond two hundred and twenty-six weeks in total.

III. Partial Disability (O.R.C. § 4123.57)

Partial disability flows from “[t]he district hearing officer, upon the application, shall determine the percentage of the employee’s permanent disability . . . based upon that condition of the employee resulting from the injury or occupational disease and causing permanent impairment evidenced by medical or clinical findings reasonably demonstrable.” This statute also has a schedule for injuries. For instance, the loss of a little finger is 15 weeks, whereas the loss of a leg is 200 weeks.

IV. Permanent Total Disability (O.R.C. § 4123.58)

If a worker is permanently and totally disabled, then “the employee shall receive an award to continue until the employee’s death in the amount of sixty-six and two-thirds per cent of the employee’s average weekly wage” with limited caveats. If the employee is also receiving Social Security disability benefits, and those benefits are reduced or terminated, then “the workers’ compensation award shall be recomputed to pay the maximum amount permitted under this division.” Very importantly, O.R.C. § 4123.58(C)-(D) distinguishes between what constitutes permanent total disability, and what does not constitute permanent total disability. Permanent total disability includes when “[t]he claimant has lost… the use of both hands or both arms, or both feet or both legs, or both eyes, or of any two thereof,” or “[t]he impairment resulting from the employee’s injury or occupational disease prevents the employee from engaging in sustained remunerative employment utilizing the employment skills that the employee has or may reasonably be expected to develop” under O.R.C. § 4123.58(C). However, permanent total disability does not cover “[i]mpairments of the employee that are not the result of an allowed injury or occupational disease,” “[s]olely the employee’s age or aging,” “[t]he employee retired or otherwise voluntarily abandoned the workforce for reasons unrelated to the allowed injury or occupational disease,” and “[t]he employee has not engaged in educational or rehabilitative efforts to enhance the employee’s employability, unless such efforts are determined to be in vain” under O.R.C. § 4123.58(D).

V. Benefits in Case of Death (O.R.C. § 4123.59)

Ohio law distinguishes between benefits in case of death if the worker dies from an injury or occupational disease cause by their employment if the employee has any dependents or not. If the employee does not have any dependents, then “the disbursements from the state insurance fund is limited to the expenses provided for in section 4123.66 of the Revised Code.” On the other hand, if the decedent employee does have “wholly dependent persons at the time of death,” then “the weekly payment is sixty-six and two-thirds per cent of the average weekly wage” subject to state-established internal payment caps. If there is more than one “wholly dependent persons at the time of death,” then “the administrator of workers’ compensation shall promptly apportion the weekly amount of compensation payable under this section among the dependent persons.” Dependent spouses “shall continue from the date of death of an injured or disabled employee until the death or remarriage of such dependent spouse. If the dependent spouse remarries, an amount equal to two years of compensation benefits at the weekly amount determined to be applicable to and being paid to the dependent spouse shall be paid in a lump sum to such spouse and no further compensation shall be paid to such spouse.” Other dependents “shall continue from the date of death of an injured or disabled employee to a dependent as of the date of death, other than a spouse, at the weekly amount determined to be applicable and being paid to such dependent other than a spouse.” These payments cease when other dependents “[r]eaches eighteen years of age;” “[i]f pursuing a full time educational program while enrolled in an accredited educational institution and program, reaches twenty-five years of age;” or “[i]f mentally or physically incapacitated from having any earnings, is no longer so incapacitated.”

Thus, workers compensation in Ohio comes provides many different benefits, including medical care, temporary disability, total permanent disability, benefits in case of death, all with unique characteristics. If you have been injured on the job and have additional questions, Lawrence & Associates offers free, confidential consultations. We’re Working Hard for the Working Class, and we want to help you. Call today!

Cincinnati, Ohio Workers’ Compensation Awards for Permanent Partial Disability and Permanent Total Disability

Posted on Monday, April 23rd, 2018 at 1:59 pm    

The following post is part of our Law Student Blog Writing Project, and is authored by Jennifer Tressler, who is pursuing her Juris Doctorate at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

Below is a case study used by law students to teach them about the difference between Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) and Permanent Total Disability (PTD). By reading it, you may learn which of these applies to your Workers’ Compensation claim!

What Injuries Led This Cincinnati Woman to File for Workers’ Compensation?

Sherry Redwine was injured at work on August 13, 2003. She filed a workers’ compensation claim for lumbosacral strain, radiculopathy right lower extremity, aggravation of pre-existing degenerative disc disease, depression, and ruptured disc at L4-5 with free disc fragment and applied for permanent-total disability compensation. It was determined that she was now unable to perform any sustainable employment due to the medical impairment caused by her psychological condition, and thus she was awarded benefits to continue until her death.

In August 2013, Ms. Redwine applied for permanent-partial disability compensation. While she admitted that she was not entitled permanent-partial disability compensation for her psychological condition (which she had already been awarded permanent-total disability compensation for), she stated that she was entitled to this award based on her physical conditions. Her application was denied by a district hearing officer, who noted that her physical and psychological impairments were a result of the same workplace injury, saying therefore that she would be unable to collect both permanent partial disability and permanent total disability for the same injury. A staff hearing officer reconsidered her case and decided that claimants would not be barred from collecting both types of compensation provided that the conditions for which s/he is seeking permanent-partial disability were not the basis for which the permanent-total disability had been awarded.

In response to this, Ms. Redwine’s employer, Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services, Inc. (OPRS), filed a complaint alleging that there was no evidence or authority to base this decision upon, but their complaint was denied. OPRS then appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of Ohio. Their appeal contains references to three different Ohio statutes (O.R.C. 4123.95, O.R.C. 4123.58, O.R.C. 4123.57(A)). The Supreme Court was concerned with the Industrial Commission’s interpretation of these statutes. In the event that the Commission is found to have misinterpreted a statute, the Court has the authority to issue something called a writ of mandamus to correct the misinterpretation.

How Do Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) and Permanent Total Disability (PTD) Actually Work?

The Industrial Commission is authorized to pay permanent-partial disability compensation to employees who suffer an injury or disease that result in a permanent partial disability and is intended to cover employees who can still work. Permanent-partial disability compensation comes in two forms: (1) compensation for a specific loss and (2) compensation based on the percentage of permanent disability pursuant to O.R.C. 4123.57(A), which is the type of compensation at issue in Ms. Redwine’s case. For the latter type of compensation, a district hearing officer determines the percentage of disability based on evidence submitting at a hearing, with compensation based upon the employee’s wages.

Permanent-total disability is also calculated based upon an employee’s wages and lasts until the employee’s death. The purpose of this type of compensation is to provide injured workers with compensation for loss of earning potential resulting from their injury or disease. This type of compensation also has two categories: (1) compensation for loss of body parts and (2) compensation for a workplace injury that prevents the employee from obtaining future lucrative employment, which is the type of compensation at issue in Ms. Redwine’s case.

The rules of statutory interpretation that the Supreme Court of Ohio is bound by are that they must determine and attribute the legislative intent, that the legislative intent must be determined primarily from the language of the statute itself, and if the statute is unambiguous, they must apply the statute as written. It is also mandated that workers’ compensation laws be construed in favor of employees.

Keeping these rules in mind, the Supreme Court of Ohio’s main issue was to decide whether the Industrial Commission has the authority to grant concurrent compensation of permanent-partial disability and permanent-total disability under O.R.C. 4123.57(A) and O.R.C. 4123.58, respectively. They held that the Industrial Commission does not have this authority.

The Court’s reasoning is that the language of the statutes is so plain and unambiguous that they are forced to apply the language of the statutes as written. Since there is no language in the workers’ compensation statutes that specifically allow for concurrent payment of permanent-partial disability and permanent-total disability compensation, the Court was unable to find for Ms. Redwine. The Industrial Commission argued that the statutes do not specifically prohibit concurrent payments in the same claim, but the Court countered by pointing out precedent that an injured employee only has the right the recover workers’ compensation benefits allowed by statute. The Court says that if the legislature intended to allow injured workers to concurrently receive permanent-partial disability and permanent-total disability payments in the same claim, it could easily have included it in the statutes. The Industrial Commission maintained that the statutes neglecting to comment on the issue of concurrent payment creates an ambiguity in the statutory language that must be decided in the workers’ favor, but the Supreme Court of Ohio reasons that the omission was intentional. Per Ms. Redwine’s request, the Court reopened her case for further consideration, but after hearing oral arguments on both sides, the Court adhered to their decision.

How Can Greater Cincinnati Residents Get the Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) and Permanent Total Disability (PTD) They Deserve?

What does this mean for workers injured on the job? Being unable to concurrently collect both permanent-partial disability compensation and permanent-total disability compensation will reduce benefits able to be collected by the most severely injured workers on the job. Workers like Ms. Redwine, who suffered both extensive physical and extensive mental injuries during her employment, will need to choose whether to apply for permanent-partial disability compensation or permanent-total disability compensation, as they will be unable to successfully apply for and receive both types of compensation. This may sound overwhelming, or even scary, but do not be afraid to reach out for help!

If you have been injured on the job like Ms. Redwine, contact Lawrence & Associates today. We can help you explore options to get the workers’ compensation you deserve! Call today for a free consultation at (513) 351-5997. We’re Working Hard for the Working Class, and we want to help you!

Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Ohio

Posted on Friday, April 20th, 2018 at 10:04 am    

Attorneys Justin Lawrence & Marisa Dyson discuss the benefits that the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) offers injured workers during and after a workers’ compensation claim.

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