Answering Your Workers Comp Questions About COVID-19

Jul 7, 2020Blog0 comments

This crazy COVID-19 nightmare keeps putting us through the wringer. We never know what aspect of life it’s going to change next. First, our health is at risk, now both our job and our health is at risk. Everything seems to be turning upside down. 

So where do you go to find answers anymore? The news is a biased heap of people yelling at each other with no factual evidence. The politicians can’t tell us anything besides “stay calm” as they line their pockets with our hard-earned money. Where does it end? 

Right here, so have no fear. Join us as our experts answer typical workers comp questions about the COVID-19 pandemic and what to expect from employers.

Workers’ Comp Overview 

COVID-19 is an employment nightmare. Countless obstacles stand in the way for policymakers because no one can devise a unified strategy.

Among these challenges is how worker’s compensation fits into Americans infected with the disease. Every state has its own workers’ compensation policy, just like every state has its COVID-19 policy. 

Each state applies different amounts of coverage based on the industry, occupation, and business itself. Workers’ compensation benefits both employees and employers by providing dependable coverage. Timely payments and reduced legal costs are two of the positive aspects workers’ compensation offer businesses and employees. 

Workers’ compensation offers wage relief for lost wages. God forbid, if a worker dies, workers’ compensation can provide death financial relief.

Luckily, most states have a dedicated workers’ compensation court system that decides cases on how to distribute claims and benefits equitably. 

Does Workers’ Compensation Cover COVID-19?

The answer, like most things these days, is complicated. Under normal circumstances, workers’ comp doesn’t cover infectious diseases like the cold or flu. This is because it is difficult to determine the cause.

Did the worker catch the virus at home, or from their child? There is no definitive way to tell where the employee contracted the virus, at least, none that would stand up in a court of law. 

Some states made exceptions for chronic illnesses such as cancer that results from materials like asbestos. Still, for the most part, diseases have too many variables associated with them to assign fault.

But what about COVID-19? It’s more complicated than other diseases. Before COVID-19, some states had policies stating that when firefighters and other first responders develop lung and respiratory illnesses, those conditions are presumed to be work-related and covered under workers’ compensation.

It’s not clear whether these policies include COVID-19. The problem is, most businesses weren’t considered dangerous before COVID-19. Suddenly, companies that didn’t require workers’ compensation package need extensive coverage. It’s especially tricky for workers deemed essential during the pandemic. 

State Responses to COVID-19

The good news is, states are taking definitive actions to remedy the situation. Many states are extending workers’ compensation coverages to include front line workers. 

The most common form of amendment is changing the policy, so workers in some fields have coverage for COVID-19.

The problem is that it’s difficult for an employer or insurer to determining whether the infection is work-related.

Workers’ compensation during COVID-19 is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, employees who got infected at their place of employment may have trouble proving their case. On the other hand, employees and insurers will have a tough time showing that an employee got infected outside the workplace. 

These presumption policies can wrongfully increase insurance policies for employers, but they can also leave workers wrongfully stranded without compensation. In a time where both businesses and workers struggle to make ends meet, nothing seems ideal. 

Examples of states amending their workers’ compensation policies for COVID-19:

  • Fourteen states have taken action to include COVID-19 as a work-related illness
  • Six states issued proposals to create presumptive coverage packages for various types of workers
  • Alaska, Minnesota, Utah, and Wisconsin are not extending coverage beyond frontline workers
  • Illinois extended its coverage to all essential workers, and Wyoming extended the coverage to all workers

Progressive Action 

Washington announced all quarantined healthcare workers and first responders could receive wage-replacement benefits. All of the workers’ health care costs are also covered under the plan.

A judge decides all other cases that do not include healthcare or first responders. The criteria for determining such instances as these are as follows: 

  • Was there was an increased risk or higher likelihood of contracting the condition due to the worker’s occupation?
  • Would the worker have been exposed if they weren’t in their profession?
  • Can the worker identify a specific work event that exposed them to the virus? 

Commonly Asked Workers Comp Questions 

COVID-19 affected workers’ compensation in more ways than one

A frequently asked question is whether or not getting laid off affects your claim. 

If you were laid off, you’re still eligible for the appropriate medical treatment.  Also, If your medical treatment is delayed due to COVID-19, your claim won’t close. 

Many medical providers still can’t offer treatments. But as facilities re-open, you’ll always have access to your treatments.  

Unfortunately, if you’ve been released for work and you are out of a job, worker’s compensation can provide little in the form of wage compensation. However, you may be eligible for unemployment. Check your state guidelines on unemployment to see if you qualify. 

Working Through the Hard Times

COVID-19 knocked the world on its butt, and we’re still reeling, trying to figure out the best way to carry forward. For employers and employees alike, these tough times call for leadership.

Click here for more guidance on how to navigate this uncharted territory and get answers to any other workers comp questions you have.

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