At the precipice of the issue for employers and business owners is the liability they may be required to shoulder if essential workers contract the virus on the job, spread it to others or bring it home to their families. Could the business be liable for a workers’ compensation (WC) claim?
The answer is: it depends. The clarification of insurance coverage remains largely undecided as it relates to Workers Compensation. Right now, the answer is almost exclusively at the carrier’s discretion. Application of coverage eventually “may” be decided by state and federal courts, or government intervention.
Workers Compensation coverage is subject to each state’s jurisdiction. Currently, a few states – Kentucky, Washington State, Michigan and Colorado have officially ruled on WC and COVID-19. These states will provide Workers Compensation benefits or wage replacement to healthcare workers and first responders during the time they are quarantined after being exposed to the virus on the job. Washington State Workers Compensation coverage will pay for medical testing, treatment expenses and provide indemnity payments for those who cannot work, while the Kentucky Employers Mutual Insurance Co., said they will pay wage-replacement benefits for first responders or healthcare employees while in quarantine.
For non-healthcare workers and general employees in every other state, Workers Compensation coverage remains a moving target and compensability will be based on the work of each individual class, and ultimately determined by the carrier and individual state. It has to be in the course and scope of employment.
In order to put your business in the best possible position ahead of a decision about a Workers Compensation claim, adhere to the following best practices.
Document and report claims immediately. Without ample notice and prompt filing, coverage will likely be denied. There is no downside to filing claims as soon as possible. Doing so ensures that your business will be in the right place when applicability of WC coverage claims are resolved.
Provide comprehensive details surrounding each claim. File each claim with as much detail as possible to ensure thorough review of your coverage and unique scenario by the carrier.
Record each individual claim by line of coverage. Doing so will make it easier to monitor carrier response internally and simultaneously provide your carrier with a simplified way to absorb multiple claims from your business.