Early View on the Impact of Shortening the Workers’ Compensation Statute of Limitations in OhioJanuary 24, 2020 – Legal Alerts
Effective Oct. 1, 2017, Ohio Revised Code 4123.84 was amended to shorten the statute of limitations for the filing a traditional workers’ compensation claim (a standard physical injury resulting in either a lost-time, medical-only, or death claim) from two years following the alleged date of injury to one year. The amendment does not apply to either occupational disease claims or VSSR filings, which maintain the two-year statute.
In the comments section of House Bill 27, the General Assembly supported the truncated filing deadline by stating it would aid employers in investigating alleged injuries and help decrease the number of questionable claims being filed. Exactly how has this change in the statute impacted the number of claims filed? The early returns from 2018 present a mixed bag.
Per the joint Industrial Commission/BWC Annual Reports dating back to 2013, approximately 74 percent of all workers’ compensation state-fund claims are filed within seven days of the alleged injury, with a high of 75 percent in 2016. This reflects the fact the bulk of claims are being filed more or less contemporaneously with the industrial injury. Curiously, in 2018, that percentage dropped to 72 percent. While not an overly significant figure, this would appear contrary to the General Assembly’s goal of having alleged injury claims filed sooner.
Since 2011, the number of physical-injury state-fund claims has dropped each year by approximately 4 percent (2013 to 2014 serves as an outlier, when there was a 1 percent increase in the number of claims filed). This should come as no surprise, as the number of hearings throughout the state has been declining steadily. Given that fewer claims are being filed, the logical conclusion is there will be fewer hearings. From 2016 to 2017, the decrease in the number of physical injuries filed dropped from 4 percent to 2 percent. One would have expected a spike in the number of claims being filed in 2018 given the statutory revision would force individuals injured after Oct. 1, 2017 to file within one year instead of two from the alleged injury date. In a surprising result, the number of claims filed in 2018 dropped only 1.1 percent from 2017. While this is in line with the trend of a percentage drop in number of claims being filed, it is not nearly as marked as prior years. While there were 1,146 fewer claims filed in 2018 than in 2017, the trend was not as exaggerated as in previous years.
While the revised statute did not affect the filing date for occupational disease claims, the statistics reveal a significant decline in the percentage of those claims being filed each year. There was a 23 percent decrease in occupational disease claims filed between 2017 and 2018. Of course, it is anticipated the number of occupational disease claims filed in 2019 will increase significantly based upon the firefighter cancer presumption addition to the workers’ compensation statutes.
While admittedly dealing with a small sample size, there appear to be mixed results so far. The trend continues of fewer physical-injury claims being filed on an annual basis, but the percentage decrease from year to year is declining. Further, it appears the goal of encourage injured workers to file their claims sooner has not been met. It will be interesting to keep an eye on the statistics as the years progress to gauge the real impact.