Ohio workers’ compensation attorney Dale Emch addresses the issue of Ohio car accident work injuries in his Toledo Blade column “Legal Briefs.” Attorney Emch answers general legal questions every other Sunday on topics ranging from Ohio dog bites and wrongful death, to medical malpractice and Ohio ATV accidents. Read his column below.
Dear Dale: If one of our employees is injured in a car accident in a company vehicle while on the job, what can we recoup from the person who caused the accident? If our workers’ compensation payments increase, can the person who caused the accident be forced to pay the difference?
You’ve raised a few points about the degree to which someone who causes a traffic accident might be held financially responsible. To provide answers to your specific questions, it might be helpful to have a more general understanding of how much money the victim of an injury accident can recover.
Generally, the victim in a personal injury accident can recover for all of his financial loss. The injured person can recoup losses for medical bills incurred, lost wages, pain and suffering experienced, and the cost of vehicle repair. In some limited situations, such as when the person who caused the accident was intoxicated, punitive damages may be awarded as a way to punish the driver and set an example to others.
The idea is to make the injured person whole for actual expenses incurred and provide compensation for the pain experienced. The person who caused the accident is responsible for the financial damage caused to the extent the injured person can provide evidence of his injuries. Obviously, these expenses can mount quickly, which is why we’re all required under Ohio law to carry liability insurance.
The same concept applies to anyone who experienced a loss as the result of another’s negligence. So, if you’re an employer and your employee is injured in a company vehicle, the person who caused the injury is financially responsible for the damage to your vehicle. Usually, this is the easy part of an accident claim. If it’s clear that one person is responsible for causing the accident, that person’s insurance company generally will settle the property damage. You may not always think the compensation offered is fair, but usually you’ll get it worked out.
Applying these ideas to your situation, you should be able to recoup any losses caused by damage to your company vehicle. The workers’ compensation issue is a lot trickier. In Ohio, employers either pay into a state fund or qualify for self-insured status. It’s a no-fault system, which means that generally, regardless of whether the employee causes the injury or if it’s somehow caused by the employer’s conduct, workers’ compensation will provide benefits to the injured worker.
It seems that you’re concerned that if one of your employees is injured as the result of a third party’s negligence, you’ll be stuck paying higher premiums. This may not be the case at all. Your premiums may not budge as a result of the claim, especially if the injury was caused by a third party not related to your company.
If your injured worker brings a personal injury claim against the person who caused the accident, workers’ compensation has a right to recoup any money it paid for the workers’ comp claim. That recovery is based on a formula that includes such things as the amount recovered, the expenses incurred to secure that recovery, and the attorney’s fees. You might get credit for the amount the system recovers on the claim, but I don’t think you’d be able to sue the third party for any increase in your premiums.
I don’t have enough space in the column to provide a lot of details about the impact to your workers’ compensation premiums, but if you think your company may be affected by this type of situation, I’d recommend that you contact the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.