Our Ohio workers’ compensation attorney Dale Emch discusses Ohio work injuries in his most recent Toledo Blade column, "Legal Briefs." If you or someone you know has been injured on the job, contact our office today for your FREE copy of The Ohio Work Injury Book. General legal questions to be considered in "Legal Briefs" can be sent to Ohio car accident lawyer Dale Emch at firstname.lastname@example.org or to 405 Madison Avenue, Suite 1200, Toledo, Ohio 43604.
Dear Dale: Assume someone has a worker’s compensation claim with an allowable diagnosis of lumbar radiculopathy along with a psychiatric diagnosis. Can the worker be declared to have reached maximum medical improvement for the back injury and still keep open the psychiatric claim?
Answer: The quick answer is yes.
The worker’s compensation system in Ohio is designed to pay for injured workers’ medical bills and replace a portion of their wages if the injury renders them unable to work. Sometimes a worker sustains more than one injury and those injuries can resolve at different times.
You referred to maximum medical improvement, which indicates a familiarity with the worker’s compensation system. Those folks speak a language that leaves the uninitiated scratching their heads and wondering what was just said. Maximum medical improvement means that the worker’s injury is about as good as it’s going to get. That doesn’t mean the person has completely recovered, just that the doctors believe the person has healed to the extent possible.
Before workers reach maximum medical improvement, they can receive compensation called temporary total disability. (See, it’s more lingo. People who spend a lot of time in the worker’s compensation world speak in abbreviations like TTD and MMI.) Temporary total disability pays injured workers a portion of their wages while they’re recovering. Once they reach maximum medical improvement, workers who haven’t fully recovered may be eligible to receive compensation for any permanent injuries.
So, in your scenario, the worker you’re speaking about has a back injury and a psychiatric issue related to the workplace accident. If the worker’s back has improved to the extent possible – even if recovery isn’t 100 percent – that portion of the claim can be resolved. If the accident led to a permanent back problem, the worker would be eligible for a payout based on the percentage of impairment or, if the injury renders the worker unable to gain sustained employment, the worker could receive compensation to replace his or her wages.
A resolution can be reached on the back injury while keeping the psychiatric claim open. If the workplace accident caused psychiatric problems that render the worker unable to work for a period of time, the person could receive temporary total disability. Or, the worker may be able to work, but needs to have any mental health treatment covered.
The worker’s compensation system can be confusing at times, but there are resources that provide good information. The state’s Web site can get you started. The address is www.ohiobwc.com.