Changes to workers’ compensation statute of limitations due to COVID-19
On March 27, 2020, Ohio Governor DeWine signed into law House Bill 197, which tolls the statute of limitations for any administrative action or proceeding set to expire between March 9, 2020, and July 30, 2020. The bill applies retroactively to the date of the emergency declared by Executive Order 2020-01D, issued on March 9, 2020, and expires on the date the period of emergency ends or July 30, 2020, whichever is sooner.
Accordingly, any relevant statute of limitations related to workers’ compensation claims, governed by the Ohio Revised Code or the Ohio Administrative Code, will not expire during the timeframe of March 9, 2020, through July 30, 2020.
New claims: The statute of limitations for filing a new claim is one year from the date of injury. However, if an alleged injury occurred between March 9, 2019, and July 30, 2019, instead of the statute of limitations being between March 9, 2020, and July 30, 2020, it is now extended to at least July 30, 2020.
Hearings: H.B. 197 also applies to administrative hearings in several ways. First, the Industrial Commission is required to hold hearings within 45 days from a motion or application for benefits, unless waived by the parties. However, H.B. 197 relieves the Industrial Commission of this statutory duty, and hearings on contested issues may now be held outside of the 45-day window if the motion or application was filed between March 9, 2020, and July 30, 2020.
If an appeal period on any hearing is set to toll between March 9, 2020, and July 30, 2020, under the bill, it is extended until after July 30, 2020, as well. This is not anticipated to be the intent of the bill, as the Industrial Commission is an essential employer and hearings on these limited issues are ongoing. We anticipate the intent of the bill was to permit those affected personally by COVID-19 (i.e., unable to file an appeal in the otherwise timely appeal period) would not be precluded from filing the appeal at the later date.1
Court cases: The statute of limitations for filing an appeal from a final administrative order into court regarding “right to participate” issues is 60 days. However, H.B. 197 extends this timeframe, too. If the statute of limitations for filing into court would have been on or after March 9, 2020, it will now be tolled until after July 30, 2020.
While these are just a few examples of how workers’ compensation operations are affected by H.B. 197, the Industrial Commission’s goal is to keep the workers’ compensation system running so there is minimal delay for Ohio employers.
An overview of all of the provisions within H.B. 197 can be found here.
1 Note that the authors have reached out to the Industrial Commission on this issue and will update if this should change.