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Automotive – Hospitality – Retail – Professional and Service Trades

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03/19/2020 UPDATE

COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION

For the latest emerging information on the COVID-19 pandemic, please go to the Centers for Disease Control

For the most up to date information on Workers’ Compensation, please go to the Virginia Workers’ Compensation

As you know, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus) a pandemic and there are increasing numbers of confirmed cases in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As we try to navigate our new reality, we wanted to provide this information and likely implications for workers’ compensation claims.

Impact on Existing Claims:

  • The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission cancelled all in-person hearings and mediations beginning March 17th through March 31st.
  • Many medical providers cancelled non-emergency treatment, such as routine office visits and physical therapy. In the short-term, this will dramatically limit access to care, as well as delay return to work.
  • CDC Guidelines regarding social distancing will likely be reasonable justification to cancel and/or reschedule medical appointments and vocational rehabilitation.

COVID-19 Claims:

We anticipate that COVID-19 claims will be treated by the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission as any other community-acquired infectious disease, such as influenza. As community spread of COVID-19 increases, the Commission will likely view COVID-19 as an ordinary disease of life which results in a higher burden of proof for the claimant and will, in most cases, result in denial of workers’ compensation benefits. 

As a preliminary matter, a claimant must prove the existence of a disease, which will likely require a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19. Mere exposure or symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (which might also be consistent with a cold or seasonal flu) will be insufficient. More critically, a claimant must prove that the disease did not result from causes outside of the employment (i.e., community-acquired). As testing ramps up, and more people are diagnosed with COVID-19, it will likely be impossible to track the source and/or specific exposure.

Reporting Workers’ Compensation of COVID-19

Employees who are diagnosed with coronavirus and believe they explicitly contracted the virus as a result of a workplace exposure can report their claim through normal channels.  As noted above, simply acquiring the virus is not indicative of compensability; there must be an actual increased hazard of employment beyond that of traditional public or social interaction to which all citizens are exposed.  Just the presence and performance of duties in an office, public, or school setting in which others have or may have the disease likely will not result in reaching the threshold for compensability. As with any other reported incident, we will investigate each claim and apply the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act in determining compensability.

As always, we are here to answer your questions and address your concerns.  Please call our Claims department at 804-359-9600, ext. 18 if we can be of further help.