Recently, Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 81 which contains several changes to workers’ compensation laws. Most significantly, the bill contains a provision that will codify the common law voluntary abandonment doctrine. This provision should ensure that injured workers do not receive certain disability benefits if their loss of income is not related to the allowed conditions in a claim. Significantly, this codification specifically supersedes any court opinions applying the well-known doctrine.

Over the years the voluntary abandonment doctrine has been the subject of numerous judicial opinions, sometimes with unpredictable results. Accordingly, the General Assembly’s intent is to codify and clarify the doctrine. Now, following the enactment of House Bill 81, there will be one test: whether an injured worker’s loss of wages is caused by the allowed injury or occupational disease or not.

Other changes to Ohio workers’ compensation laws are coming as well. Specifically, the VSSR statute of limitations will be reduced to one year, funeral expenses will increase to $7,500, and the last date of medical treatment rendered, not paid, will control the Commission’s jurisdiction over medical-only claims. Additionally, state-fund employers are prohibited from refusing or withdrawing from a settlement when the claim is out of its experience and the employee is no longer employed with that employer. These changes, among others, will take effect on Sept. 14, 2020.

If you have questions or need assistance related to any changes to workers’ compensation laws, please contact us for assistance.