The current pandemic has left many employees in ambiguous situations. While some essential workers are still required to report to their physical place of work, others have taken up working at home to still meet their deadlines and bring in income. After all, many Californians have been ordered by recent laws to shelter in place to avoid spreading COVID-19.
At first glance, many businesses might think they will have to handle fewer workers’ compensation claims because fewer individuals are physically reporting to the office. Many employees might also believe they can no longer file claims for the same reason. In fact, the potential for a decrease in claims influenced the decision of Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara’s Order of April 13, 2020. The Order requires insurers to refund certain business and individual premiums.
But will there be a decrease in claims, and what can you, as an individual do if you experience a work-related injury at home?
Read on to find out.
The Current Legal Standard
Throughout the majority of the state of California, an employee must suffer an injury or disease that causes disability or creates the need for medical treatment while at work or while completing tasks for work. The employee does not need to prove their employer was negligent. Injuries or diseases could be caused by single incidents or from long term exposure or repetitive traumatic injury. Usually, a non-occupational disease is not compensable – such as a cold or flu. It is also important to note injuries at work may not be compensable if the employee is intoxicated, self-inflicted the trauma, engaged in a physical altercation, sustained the injuries during a felony, or were participating in a voluntary off-duty activity like an office football match.
When it comes to the current COVID-19 situation, liability exposure is difficult for employers to determine. While COVID-19 would be considered a non-occupational disease, it is important to consider whether or not an individual was put at an increased risk of developing the illness and whether working aggravated the disease and the conditions it causes. Most workers might be able to file worker’s compensation if they can prove their employment put them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.
When it comes to determining the liability for work-from-home injuries, there will be greater onus upon workers to prove their work activities and accommodations resulted in injury.
What Does This Mean?
No matter whether you are an employer or an employee, you will need to pay close attention to your new accommodations and make sure you are not taking any untoward risks. To minimize workers’ compensation claims, essential businesses should continue to comply with CDC, Federal, State, and Local guidelines and procedures. They should also have clear work-from-home policies, agreements, and guidelines in place. As an employee, if you are still injured following these new guidelines, you might have a case for worker’s compensation.
Unfortunately, many worker’s compensation cases can be difficult to argue and process because of the limitations created by COVID-19. If you think you have a case, it is important to seek qualified legal counsel and not try to make or defend a case yourself.
If you are facing a situation involving worker’s compensation and want to make sure you are covered, you need a competent law office in California that can assist. Working with a professional who understands the complexities associated with employment law will improve the chances of you being protected. Let the professionals at KJT LAW GROUP help. Call us today at (818) 873-0181 or contact us for a free consultation.