Under Ohio law, an injured worker has one year from the date of a workplace injury to initiate a claim. The one-year timeline applies to occupational disease, too, but is a bit more complicated, since it’s tied to events such as diagnosis of the occupational illness rather than a specific incident at work.
That doesn’t change because you’ve been fired, changed jobs, retired, or left work due to your injury. In fact, many occupational diseases haven’t been discovered for years, meaning that it’s not uncommon for affected workers to have moved on before they are diagnosed.
One reason workers’ compensation claims sometimes get filed after the employment relationship terminates is that the injured worker makes the mistake of quitting in the wake of the injury.
Sometimes that happens because the employee blames the employer for the injury, because the employer doesn’t act in good faith after the injury, or simply because the worker assumes they will not be able to return to the type of work they have been doing for quite a while–or at all.
This is usually a bad move for an injured worker and is not a decision you should make without consulting an Ohio workers’ compensation attorney.
Since we’ve established that you can still file a workers’ compensation claim after leaving a job, you may be wondering why it’s usually a bad idea to quit the job in the wake of your injury. It’s because one element of your workers’ compensation claim involves temporary or permanent partial or total disability benefits.
In other words, an injured worker who loses work time due to the injury is typically entitled to replacement income while they are unable to work. In some cases, the employer may offer light-duty work a part-time schedule, or some other accommodation that allows the injured worker to keep working.
In that case, the worker is generally still entitled to benefits to help make up the difference between their regular pay and what they’re being paid in the alternative assignment.
If the injured worker has voluntarily left the job or has been fired for cause, there is no lost income attributable to the injury. An injured worker who quits a job and then goes through months of treatment and rehabilitation for the injury may have cheated themself of months of temporary partial or total disability benefits.
If the employer has a legitimate cause for the termination, an employee who has been fired after an injury is in much the same situation as an employee who voluntarily quit.
The employment relationship has been terminated for reasons unrelated to the injury. So, any lost wages are attributable to the termination and not to the injury.
However, if you are fired after a work injury–especially a serious work injury–you shouldn’t take the employer’s explanation at face value. Some employers will fire an employee in bad faith to avoid months or years of workers’ compensation disability benefits. But, Ohio law prohibits this type of retaliation or discrimination.
If your employer has fired you in bad faith after a work injury, you may be entitled to compensation–even if the employer claimed a different reason for the termination. You only have 180 days from the termination to pursue a claim for this type of discharge, so you’ll want to consult an attorney as soon as possible.
Some other possible reasons a worker might file a workers’ compensation claim against a former employer include:
Whatever the reason, the upshot is that as long as you are within the time period allotted by Ohio law, you can file a workers’ compensation claim against a previous employer.
However, depending on the circumstances, you may lose temporary or permanent disability benefits–whether partial or total–and be limited to medical coverage.
Loss of access to workers’ compensation disability benefits is especially problematic if you are permanently disabled. But, leaving a job before filing an Ohio workers’ compensation claim or while a workers’ compensation claim is underway can cost you even if you move on to another job.
For example, if your injury limits the type of work you can do, you may end up earning less than you did in your previous position. But, if you’d stayed in your original job and taken on a less demanding role that paid less, you might have received partial benefits to help fill that gap.
If you’ve been injured at work and are considering leaving your job or have been terminated and believe the firing may have been retaliatory, talk with a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney right away, before you make any decisions. Your time to act may be limited, so get the information you need right away.
If you’ve already left your job voluntarily or the company you worked for has gone out of business, you can initiate your workers’ compensation claim directly with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC).
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