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CLIENT ALERT: Bureau of Workers' Compensation Budget Amends Law

As we head into 2018, you should be aware of some recent changes made in Ohio’s laws concerning Workers’ Compensation. These changes became effective September 29, 2017.   Some will affect business more than others, but these are changes you should really know about. 

>A notice of intent to settle can be filed by the Injured Worker or Employer within thirty (30) days of receipt of an order being appealed (or, apparently which could be appealed), or the Industrial Commission’s refusal to hear an appeal. If filed, this filing extends the time for filing an appeal to Court to one-hundred and fifty (150) days (unless the other party files an objection to the notice within fourteen (14) days of receipt). This provision may assist parties in settling claims before invoking judicial machinery.

>Changes increased Injured Worker Attorney fees from $4,500.00 to $5,000.00.

>The BWC medical section is required to schedule a medical examination to determine the employee’s continued entitlement to initial compensation no later than thirty (30) days following the initial consecutive ninety (90) day period.   While the BWC may waive the scheduling of a medical examination for “good cause,” if the employee’s employer objects to the waiver, then the administrator will refer the employee to the bureau medical section to schedule the examination or the administrator will schedule the examination.

>Section 4123.56(E) provides that if an injured worker is awarded temporary total disability compensation before the full weekly wage is determined, s/he will be compensated at the statewide average weekly wage rate.  Discrepancies will be accounted for and adjusted once the full weekly wage is calculated.

>A Permanent Partial Disability Application (C92) will be dismissed (without prejudice, which means it can be refiled if the statute has not already run) if the injured worker fails to respond to an attempt to schedule an examination by the bureau medical section or fails to attend a scheduled medical exam without notice or explanation.

>Various provisions amend sections which address fire fighter cancer presumption.  Changes to this the section, among other things, amend the fire fighter cancer presumption to permit rebutting the presumption by demonstrating that exposure to the carcinogen could not have caused that type of cancer.  Changes to this section also limit the presumption to situations where the fire fighter has not worked in hazardous duty for more than fifteen (15) years.  Other changes  permit a fire fighter to receive working wage loss if s/he has a scheduled claim for cancer contracted by a fire fighter.

>The time limit for filing a claim is reduced from two years to one year.  It is important to note, however, that the statute of limitations for occupational disease claims has apparently not changed.

>Also, while not a legislative change, an important new medical rule goes into effect January 1, 2018.  A section of the Ohio Administrative Code will be enacted, which covers Lumbar Fusions.  Under this new rule, before approving lumbar fusion surgery, certain medical criteria generally must be met.

For more information about the law changes or other employment, labor and workers' compensation matters, contact Richard L. Williger

DOL Proposes New Rule Regarding Independent Contractor Status - But How Will the Election Affect Its Future?

On September 22, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a new proposed rule regarding employee and independent contractor status under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The full text of the proposed rule is available here. The rule's drafters intend to reduce uncertainty and enhance the precision and predictability of the long-standing "economic reality" test, which currently relies on a multifactor balancing test.

Major Change to Franklin County, Ohio Eviction Process: Landlord Testimony Required

Although there is currently a nationwide temporary halt on all residential evictions through December 31, 2020 in place, the eviction process in Franklin County – which processes the highest number of evictions in the State of Ohio at approximately 18,000 a year – recently changed significantly.

UPDATE: Governor Dewine Signs HB 606 Granting Short Window of Immunity from COVID-19 Personal Injury Lawsuits

The Ohio General Assembly, in Am. Sub. H.B. No. 606, is in the final stages of passing a law that will prohibit lawsuits seeking damages from COVID-19. This includes injury, death, or loss to person or property if the lawsuits are based, in whole or in part, on the exposure to, or the transmission or contraction of the coronavirus, unless the defendant in the lawsuit acted intentionally or recklessly. In circumstances where this immunity does not apply, H.B. 606 prohibits such claims being aggregated and brought as a class action.

Revised Department of Labor FFCRA Guidance, Effective September 16, 2020

In response to attacks on the legality of the Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) Final Rule regarding the Families First Coronavirus Act (“FFCRA” or the “Act”), which took effect in April 2020, the Department of Labor issued new guidance on Friday, September 11th to formally address ongoing questions and concerns related to the COVID-19 legislation.

FCC Adds $198 Million to Strengthen Telehealth for Rural Healthcare Providers

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has added an additional $198 million in funding to its Rural Health Care Program. These funds will be used to increase broadband services and telecommunications to bolster telehealth/telemedicine services for rural healthcare providers. Funding for rural healthcare providers was initially capped at $605 million in 2020, but the added funds will now allow the FCC to provide over $800 million to eligible providers.