Workers’ Compensation and Exposure to Disease

The coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented situation. Workers’ compensation laws are going to be put to the test by this novel illness.

When considering whether or not the coronavirus is compensable under current workers’ compensation laws, questions arise regarding “occupational diseases” versus “ordinary diseases of life” and the various statutory requirements that apply.

Typically, workers’ compensation covers only occupational diseases, even for healthcare professionals, when proof exists about the contraction of that disease within the occupational setting.

Time off from work may generally be used “sick leave” rather than coded as a “temporary disability” paid through workers’ compensation.

One State’s Approach to WC for Coronavirus

The questions are complex, and there are no clear answers. However, the state of Florida has taken steps to accept Covid 19 as a disease which will be covered by Chapter 440 for some first responders.

The new policy covers first responders and health care workers working for the State government. The law presumes the contraction of the disease to have occurred while on the job. The presumption would mean any medical treatment and testing, and indemnity payments for those who cannot work due to the virus would be covered under workers’ compensation. This applies only to State workers who are providing first line defense to citizens

Health Insurance’s Impact

Ten other U.S. states have issued mandates for general health insurance coverage of coronavirus-related testing, emergency room visits, urgent care facilities, and medical treatment, both in and out-of-network for health care workers. This coverage could help to limit the impact on workers’ compensation claims.

Other Factors Related to Workers’ Compensation and the Coronavirus

Companies around the country have switched their focus to employee safety, radically changing operations, including transitioning to a remote workforce, limiting travel, and modifications to sick leave policies and time off for recuperation. These significant changes could potentially impact the economy long-term. With talk of a recession, unemployment, payroll levels, and overall workers’ compensation claims will most likely be affected.

Although the future is uncertain, we are here to help. Contact us if you have any questions regarding workers’ compensation claims and the coronavirus.

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