Ohio has struggled under a troubling legal question regarding appeals under its workers’ compensation program.
In 2006, the state legislature passed a law that was designed to make appeals move through the workers’ comp system faster — however, not everyone was happy with the measure so the question of its legality eventually found its way to the state’s Supreme Court.
At issue was the unusual way that Ohio handles some appeals under the workers’ comp system. In most states, the injured worker in the workers’ comp case can ask the court to dismiss the case without prejudice. That leaves the door open to refile the appeal when the worker has had time to gather more evidence and develop a stronger case.
During that time, the worker is usually able to continue receiving benefits — which means that expenses can pile up on the employer’s end of things. This ultimately put the employer at a disadvantage because the dismissals were essentially automatic. Many felt that the system was abused and that workers sometimes “gamed” the system in order to stretch out benefits to which they were no longer legitimately entitled.
Since the 2006 change in the law, however, if the employer files the appeal against the employee, the employee can’t get a dismissal unless the employer consents.
An employee eventually sued claiming that the 2006 law was unconstitutional because it created two classes of plaintiffs — those who could get an automatic dismissal and those who couldn’t.
After initially winning at the lower court level, the higher court weighed in and declared the rule constitutional after all. The court stated that the distinct classification of the two groups of plaintiffs served a legitimate purpose in that it helped stop improper payments and avoid unnecessary delays in appeals.
For now, at least, injured employees are stuck with the same system that’s been in place since 2006. However, if you have any questions about how the ruling could affect your situation, a workers’ compensation attorney can provide answers.
Source: The Columbus Dispatch, “High court reinstates workers’ comp law addressing appeals,” Mark Williams, Sep. 28, 2017