Workers’ compensation benefits provide critical support for those suffering from work-related injuries. Many of our clients can receive reasonable medical expenses, along with partial wage replacement benefits. But what qualifies as a “work-related injury” for purposes of the workers’ compensation law? Our Ohio workers’ compensation attorney provides an overview of the law.
Injuries at Work
This is perhaps the clearest example of a work-related injury. If you were injured while working at your place of employment, you should qualify for benefits.
Injuries might result from a sudden accident, such as a fall or an explosion. If the shelves in your office collapse and the contents fall on you, then you have suffered a work-related injury.
By contrast, other injuries take time to develop, such as repetitive stress injuries or occupational illnesses. For example, someone who develops cancer from inhaling toxic chemicals over the course of years has suffered an occupational illness and should qualify for benefits. The same is true of someone who developed carpal tunnel syndrome slowly over the years of punching numbers into a computer.
Injuries away from Work
Under ORC §4123(C), an injury qualifies for benefits if the worker suffers it “in the course of” and “arising out of” their employment. Under this standard, injuries sustained away from work might qualify. For example, many people travel for their jobs or attend business functions as a representative of their company. If you are working when you were injured, then your injuries are possibly work-related.
This is a fact-specific analysis. For example, we want to see whether you are reimbursed for travel expenses and whether your employer required you to travel. These facts help show that the time away from the office was work-related.
Traveling to and From Work
You typically cannot claim workers’ compensation benefits if you were injured driving to work or driving home when you have a fixed location for work. This is called the “coming and going” rule and it applies to those with “fixed-situs” jobs.
There are many factors to analyze with this type of claim. For example, do your work duties start only when you reach work? If so, then being injured while traveling to work does not qualify. Are you “on the clock” only when you reach a fixed location? If so, then the coming and going rule probably applies.
You might have been injured in an accident years ago, resulting in impairment. This pre-existing condition does not qualify as work-related. However, if your pre-existing condition was “substantially aggravated” on the job, then your injury is probably work-related.
For example, you might have herniated a disc while snowboarding three years ago. At work, you lift a heavy box and suddenly feel a pain in the same location, which makes it impossible for you to sit up or stand. Under these facts, your back injury is probably work-related.
Generally, psychiatric conditions are excluded by the statute’s definition of an “injury.” However, there are exceptions, such as when the psychiatric condition develops out of an injury or occupational illness. Another exception covers psychiatric conditions that arise from forced sexual conduct, such as sexual assault at work.
Some injuries are not covered by workers’ compensation. For example, any natural deterioration of an organ or body tissue does not qualify. Someone who naturally loses their eyesight has not been injured on the job.
An injury suffered when participating in fitness or recreational activity sponsored by an employer also does not qualify when the employee signs of a waiver.
Contact Us Today
Whether an injury qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits is not always easy. Groth & Associates can review your case and help you decide the right step to take. Give us a call to schedule a free consultation.