Posted By Charles J. Cochran, Jr. on February 27, 2009
If you have been injured in an automobile accident while at work you may have an obligation to pay back any sum of money which was paid for your medical expenses or other costs which the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation or a Self-Insured Employer has paid to or for you. This repayment right is generally referred to as subrogation.
In many instances the Bureau does not immediately realize that you should be paying them back out of your settlement but that does not let you off of the hook. If you are not careful you might hurry to settle the case and not be aware of this obligation yourself. You might think that the Bureau has just missed it and think that you will not need to pay them. If you do not handle this matter properly it could be very costly to you and you cannot count on the Liability Carrier to watch out for your interests. In most, if not all, releases which the liability carrier has you sign when you settle your case there is a paragraph which requires you to repay them if they incur any liability when they pay you for your injuries. Therefore, if the Bureau comes to you for repayment, or later sues both you and the carrier, the carrier will probably file a claim against you to indemnify them if they are held to be liable to the Bureau for repayment.
The Ohio law concerning this automatic right of repayment may be found at ORC 4123.931. I highly recommend that you hire competent legal counsel to help you in these type of cases so that you do not proceed to settle the claim and then find out later you must repay someone out of the money which you have received. You could be in the position later where because of your actions you wind up giving the Bureau a good part of your settlement from the accident. While we are talking about it you probably have a obligation to your own health insurance carrier to pay them back if they have paid any of your medical bills.
Sometimes the Bureau of Workers Compensation will pick up the information that this is a subrogated claim and send you a notice telling you what action you should take. Other times the Bureau will not become aware that this is a subrogated claim. In either instance you still may be liable to the Bureau and it is simply not worth it to take such a chance on losing what money you might have received. If you approach the Bureau about the settlement before you actually settle the case then you may have the opportunity to work it out with them. For example, you may have a case which has some problems with it where the Bureau may agree to accept a lesser amount of the money which they are owed. However if you approach the Bureau after the case is settled you have already given up part of your bargaining power with them.
You will see that I have recommended to you that you hire an attorney. There is no way that I can express this opinion without seeming to be self serving in this recommendation but it is something which needs to be said. There are a lot of things the do-it-yourselfer can do in life but this is really not one of them. It may be some help to you in making your decision regarding hiring an attorney to know that most attorneys will hire an attorney to represent them in their own personal matters especially if the legal question is outside of their area of expertise.
I did not prepare this article in order to convince you to hire an attorney. The bottom line here is that you need to know what you are doing in these matters and to be sure to discuss the question of subrogation of the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation claim for repayment fully with the attorney which you hire to represent you. I would certainly invite comments to this Article.