Denman & Lerner Co., L.P.A.

Who gets your workers' comp benefits if you don't?

No one wants to look like a wimp, but your workers' compensation benefits exist for a reason. They're supposed to help you recover from work-related injuries and illnesses. And if you decide to tough it out each day, despite the lingering aches and pains your job has caused you, all that money is going somewhere else.

Where is it going? Well, the extra $1.5 billion that the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) made on its investments may be going back to the state's employers. According to The Cleveland American, the BWC may return $114.3 million to local governments, $50 million to public schools and an undisclosed sum to the private businesses it insures.

Following the money in Ohio workers' compensation

The potential rebate highlights one of the less commonly noted truths about workers' compensation-managing it is a business. In Ohio, this business can run two different ways:

  • Employers buy their workers' comp insurance through the BWC. The BWC runs most of the state's workers' comp insurance, and this tends to be good for Ohioans. As a state-run governmental agency, the BWC works for the state and its residents. When it sees exceptionally strong returns on its investments, it considers paying the windfall back to the state.
  • Employers apply to self-insure. Some larger, financially stable employers may run their own workers' comp insurance plans. To do this, employers need to meet the BWC's qualifications for self-insurance and file a detailed application with multiple forms. The idea is that these employers, which may include municipalities, need to show they can handle workers' comp claims.

Despite the assurances an employer offers the BWC when it files to self-insure, the reality is there's a big difference between the two insurance plans. No matter their intentions, the state's self-insured employers may run into conflicts of interest. Self-insured companies have a financial incentive to deny claims, especially if those claims could result in large payouts. This seems to be the case in Beachwood's recent denial of a firefighter's workers' comp claims. And the firefighter's claims were denied even after the state passed a workers' comp law that it named for him!

Exercise your rights

Ohio recognizes your workers' compensation benefits as a right. Your employer must invest in workers' comp, and you have the right to file anytime you're injured on the job. An attorney with experience in workers' compensation can help you better understand your rights and may help you seek compensation if your claim is denied.

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