Archive for October, 2015

What Is OPERS?

The Ohio retirement and disability attorneys with Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman field this question often. We hear it from spouses who have lost life partners, adult children who find themselves caring for elderly parents, and even from OPERS beneficiaries who must navigate the complex program to fully access their benefits for the first time.

Here are the basics. If you need more information, and especially if you need to appeal a denial of OPERS benefits, do not hesitate to contact our law firm’s Cleveland offices.


What does the acronym OPERS stand for?

OPERS is shorthand for the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System.


Who is covered by OPERS?

All full-time and part-time employees of Ohio state agencies, local governments, state law enforcement organizations, public safety departments, most student university employees, and elected officials and political appointees who opt into the system participate in OPERS. School teachers have their own pension and disability plan called STRS, as do non-teaching employees of public K-12 schools (SERS).


What benefits does OPERS pay?

OPERS operates like a combination of a traditional pension plan, a 401(k)/IRA investment plan, and a disability insurance plan.

How state retirement program participation affects Social Security, Medicare, and worker’s compensation eligibility is complicated. Speaking with a Cleveland, OH, OPERS lawyer is probably a good idea if you have worked for private employers in addition to the state.


How do I know what OPERS benefits should be paid?

The amount and timing of benefits vary by individual circumstances. For instance, pension benefits are calculated according to a formula that factors in years of service, hiring date, retirement age, and highest average salary. Disability payments depend on the beneficiary’s degree of impairment and salary at the time when working was no longer possible. Proving the cause, nature, and extent of the disability will also be necessary.

Figuring all this out can be a challenge, especially for surviving spouses and for family members who must take over their loved one’s financial affairs. Consulting with a Cleveland, OH, OPERS lawyer can help such people determine whether the retirement system is operating correctly on their behalf.


Why might OPERs benefits be withheld or denied?

Public Employees Retirement System benefits stop or never get approved for many reasons. A few examples include the following:

  • The program has incomplete records, ranging from a beneficiary’s new address to dates of employment and contributions to voluntary retirement accounts.
  • OPERS believes a retiree has died.
  • The identity and relationship of a surviving spouse is being disputed.
  • OPERs does not accept the validity of the medical evidence submitted to support a disability claim.


Can Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman help me if my OPERS benefits are not coming?

Many of our lawyers have handled Public Employees Retirement System cases for years. Call us at (800) 678-3318 to request a free consultation. We will need to learn more about your specific situation, but we know we can at least point you toward the information and assistance you require.

What Can I Be Awarded for a Personal Injury?

Let’s tackle this one FAQ-style.

What counts as a personal injury that merits an insurance settlement or court award?

Legally, any physical harm you suffer due to the negligence or recklessness of someone else or an organization can be considered a personal injury. The Cleveland personal injury lawyers with Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman provide much more detailed answers here and here.


What can I ask for in a personal injury insurance claim or lawsuit?

Personal injury victims can seek

  • Compensatory damages
  • Nonmonetary damages
  • Punitive damages

Keep scrolling to learn more about each type of compensation and damage award.


Who pays those settlements and awards for personal injuries?

Insurance companies generally cut the actual checks to injured people and the families of deceased victims. Individuals and corporations can be made to pay out of their own pockets. Either type of claim or lawsuit can be complicated, so seeking advice and representation from a personal injury attorney is generally a good idea.


What do compensatory damages cover?

Compensatory damages represent monetary costs incurred by suffering a personal injury. The most significant of these are

  • Medical expenses that include emergency room treatment, hospital care, doctor visits, and medications
  • Disability costs such as physical and mental therapy, loss of a limb, in-home care, and medical equipment
  • Wages lost from both missing work while recovering and not being able to earn as much after the injury
  • Property repair and replacement, especially car repairs following a traffic accident

While wrongful deaths differ slightly from personal injuries, it is worth noting that all funeral expenses can be compensable (i.e., payable by the person or organization that caused the death). Recoverable funeral expenses can include burial costs and travel for relatives.


Can I get compensated for the full amount of all injury-related expenses?

Yes. Ohio law places no caps on compensatory damages for personal injuries and wrongful deaths. Working with a personal injury attorney in Cleveland, Ohio, to calculate the current total amount and lifelong financial burden of medical expenses, disabilities, lost wages, and property repairs is essential to ensuring you do not get lowballed with an insurance settlement or court award.


Do injury victims always receive all the compensatory damages they claim?

No. First, receiving any compensation at all depends on having an insurance company validate your claim or on convincing a judge or jury that someone else’s actions harmed you. Substantiating an insurance claim or lawsuit with strong evidence is a must, and something an experienced and dedicated Cleveland personal injury lawyer can help you do.

Second, you may not get all your injury-related expenses covered if you are found to be partly at fault for hurting yourself. Ohio courts observe a legal standard called comparative negligence. Some people refer to this as contributory negligence. Whichever term is used, applying the rule reduces a personal injury settlement or award because the victim was acting somewhat negligently.

An example of comparative negligence would be not wearing reflective clothing while walking your dog at night and getting hit by a car. The driver might be found 90 percent responsible, and you 10 percent. Those findings would reduce total compensation of $100,000 to $90,000.


What are non-monetary damages?

The major kinds of non-monetary damages can be recovered following a personal injury are:

  • Pain and suffering, which encompasses physical discomfort, emotional distress, and mental disturbances
  • Loss of consortium (i.e., family relations, including sex with a spouse)
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of society
  • Loss of care
  • Loss of assistance
  • Loss of attention
  • Loss of protection
  • Loss of advice
  • Loss of guidance
  • Loss of counsel
  • Loss of instruction
  • Loss of training
  • Loss of education

The distinction here is that no exact dollar value can be affixed to a problem like no longer being able to fully enjoy life and care for friends and family following a personal injury.


Is there a limit in Ohio on non-monetary damages?

Unfortunately, yes. State law caps payments for non monetary damages at $250,000 for almost all kinds of personal injuries. That cap can rise to $350,000 in extreme cases.


What do punitive damages represent?

Just like the name implies, punitive damages represent a financial punishment for causing a personal injury while acting with reckless disregard for others’ health and safety. For instance, injuries caused by drunk drivers can bring punitive damages because an intoxicated person who drives shows little respect for other people.

Importantly, punitive damages get assessed separately from any criminal fines and restitution.


Does Ohio Law put a cap on punitive damages?

Again, sadly, yes. The most a personal injury victim can collect in punitive damages is double the amount of compensatory damages.


What if I have more questions about my possible personal injury case?

Click here or call (800) 678-3318 to request a free consultation with an Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman personal injury attorney. We have offices across Ohio.

Cleveland OH Workers Comp Lawyer
Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman
6100 Oak Tree Blvd., Suite 200, Cleveland Ohio 44131 USA
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