Worker’s Compensation Law in Ohio- An Overview

What is worker’s compensation?

Worker’s compensation law applies to injuries suffered at the workplace by an employee or a worker. The worker can get worker’s compensation benefits for medical bills and lost wages resulting from the injury or occupational disease caused at the workplace. In the state of Ohio, worker’s compensation does not cover independent contractors and only applies to employees or workers. Thus, the difference between employee and an independent contractor holds importance here and the employer should be cautious about the same.

What is ‘compensable injury’ and ‘occupational disease’?

Compensable Injury

In order to make a successful worker’s compensation claim, the injury suffered must be a ‘compensable injury’. Under the laws of Ohio, ‘compensable injury’ is defined as an injury which is ‘received in the course of, and arising out of, the injured employee’s employment.’ This means that the injured person must be able to prove that there was ‘causal connection’ between the injury caused and the worker’s employment. However, it does not require the employees to prove that the employer was at fault, but rather they only need to establish a link between the injury caused and some condition, activity or any other factor present at the workplace or in the employment which caused such injury.

Exceptions to Compensable Injury

  1. Injury or disability caused due to natural deterioration of an organ, tissue or any other part of the body.
  2. Injury or disability caused due to a work sponsored recreation or fitness activity provided that the injured worker signed prior waiver of rights relating to the same.
  3. Stress or psychiatric conditions, subject to certain exceptions.
  4. A pre-existing condition unless the workplace injury substantially aggravated the pre-existing condition.

Occupational Disease

Occupational disease refers to an illness developed through employment and caused due to exposure to a specific industrial condition or process. Examples of common occupational disease include, any disease or disability such as skin problems or cancer caused by exposure to toxic gases or chemicals, extreme temperature, noises, radioactive rays, infections.

What are ‘no fault’ and ‘exclusive insurance’ under Ohio’s worker’s compensation laws?

Ohio’s worker’s compensation law is unique and different than most other states. It is based on the principles of ‘no fault’ and ‘exclusive insurance system’.


This means that the employee need not show that there was any fault on part of the employer or that the employer failed to exercise reasonable care or was negligent. The employee only needs to show that there was an ‘employer-employee relationship’ and a link between the injury caused and the worker’s employment. It does not matter whether the injuries were caused due to ‘external accidental means’ or ‘accidental in character and result’.

Exclusive insurance system

This means that the worker’s compensation insurance can only be purchased through a state agency. The insurance can only be purchased through a government operated insurance and not a private insurer and this is also referred to as ‘monopolistic state fund’.

Who is required to comply with Ohio’s worker’s compensation laws?

Under the laws of Ohio, any business employing a single person or more is required to purchase a worker’s compensation insurance. Thus, even if a business employs just one person, it needs to comply with these laws. An employer is also required to carry worker’s compensation for part-time employees, interns and apprentices (paid or unpaid). However, volunteers are not covered by this compensation unless the work is done for a public employer, such as emergency fire rescuers. Similarly, domestic workers who earn less than $160 per calendar quarter are also not covered by the workers compensation benefits.

A self-employed person does not need to have a worker’s compensation insurance, provided there are no persons employed by that person.

What are the worker’s compensation death benefits in Ohio?

Under the laws of Ohio, dependents that relied upon the deceased worker financially may be entitled to workers compensation death benefits. The following persons qualify as dependents:

  1. A spouse
  2. A child under 18 years of age
  3. A child who is a full-time student and under 18 years of age.
  4. A disabled child of any age who is unable to earn.

However, these claims are decided on a case to case basis. The worker’s compensation death benefits also include burial expenses upto $5,500.

What are the penalties for not complying with the worker’s compensation laws?

All businesses that need to obtain a worker’s compensation law should strictly comply with all the requirements of law, including renewal of the coverage requirements and payment schedule requirements. The Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation (BWC) is the supervising body which monitors and oversees the compliance of worker’s compensation law in Ohio. Any failure to comply with the laws entails strict penalties, which include:

  1. Failure to file payroll report: 1% of the premium due, subject to minimum $3 and maximum $15.
  2. Failure to pay premium on time: Flat penalty of $30 plus a penalty of upto 15% of the premium due.
  3. Lapse in Coverage: Filing of assessment liens by the BWC for non payment of premiums and claim costs.

What to do if you’ve suffered a work related injury or contacted an occupational disease?

  1. Seek immediate medical attention.
  2. Report the injury or occupational disease to your employer. This step is crucial to the filing of a worker’s compensation claim.
  3. File a worker’s compensation claim.

Under the laws of Ohio, limitation periods are applicable when filing a worker’s compensation claim. A person who has suffered a work related injury, should file an application for workers compensation benefits within e period of one from the date of injury. On the other hand, a person who has developed an occupational disease should file the application within a period of two years from the date of diagnosis of the condition.

More information on worker’s compensation laws in Ohio can be found at:

Worker’s compensation laws in Ohio can be challenging and daunting to understand. At Ziccarelli & Martello, our attorneys have years of experience with a successful track record to help and provide guidance and consultation related to worker’s compensation law to both employers and employees. Contact us today to know your rights and our team will be happy to help you.