White Paper Explores WC Compensability of COVID-19

Nancy Grover

Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – Is COVID-19 compensable under workers’ compensation? Maybe.

A new white paper from Broadspire, a Crawford Company points out there are many complexities to the question.

“In some workers compensation claims, medical professionals, first responders and others in hands-on occupations are able to identify the exact interaction or moment of exposure to a disease. Needle sticks, bites, cuts and other acute transmission of bodily fluids can make that determination very simple from a workers compensation perspective,” the paper says. “Unfortunately, exposure to COVID-19 is not as simple to pinpoint, and with the disease actively spreading across the globe, many questions are being raised as employers and employees survey the landscape.”

The flu and other infectious diseases are typically not covered under workers’ compensation. But there are exceptions for certain occupations.

“In these exceptions, the employee must first prove that the disease was contracted within the scope of their employment and then as a direct result of their employment, which can be very hard to do in most cases,” the authors write. “While each state applies their own jurisdictional statutes to occupational illness/disease and should be consulted for specifics, many apply the two prong test which must be satisfied before any illness or disease, including COVID-19, qualifies as occupational and thus compensable under workers compensation:

  1. The illness or disease must be ‘occupational,’ meaning that it arose out of and was in the course and scope of the employment; and
  2. The illness or disease must arise out of or be caused by conditions particular to the work.”

The definition of ‘occupational illnesses/diseases’ is different among jurisdictions. That, and the fact that the symptoms or infection present “at an indeterminable period of time after initial contact,” make the question of exposure “blurry, at best.”

“… claims for airborne diseases such as COVID-19 are layered and complex,” the paper concludes. “The ability to assess where the exposure took place is difficult, and as the disease spreads the exposure outside of employment, the burden of proof is placed on the employee.”

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