Right now, there are many people that continue to work and expose themselves to the Coronavirus. I am talking about law enforcement, first responders, doctors, nurses, grocery store workers, pharmacists and many other essential services. What will happen if and when these workers file workers’ compensation claims if they contract the coronavirus.
First off we should be VERY thankful that these people and the companies they work for are continuing to operate. This awful pandemic that is sweeping across the US and the world is leaving a wake that is impacting everyone.
I wanted to discuss how the Coronavirus will impact employers when it comes to Workers’ Compensation Claims. If an employee contracts the virus in the course and scope of work how will employers, health care providers and insurance companies deal with these claims? Will there be people that take advantage and lie about how they were exposed to the virus?
Will the exposure trigger a Workers’ Compensation Claim? Will the carriers investigate these claims, deny them or just accept them? The coverage issues that will arise will likely be litigated for years to come so stay tuned.
In my experience there will be employees that will take advantage of the situation especially if layoffs occur. Employers will get frustrated with these claims because they can and will impact their premiums. This means that there will be litigation.
If there is litigation, then there will be a need for investigation. The important thing to remember is that investigating these things after getting notice of a claim or upon notice of litigation will pose tremendous challenges.
My recommendation is to document anything and everything you are hearing from your employees, managers and executives as it relates to employees having any exposure to virus. Please take the CDC guidelines seriously and make sure your managers are following through so that potentially infected employees are not interacting with your partners, employees or contractors.
The best defense in these types of cases is documented evidence that tells the story. There haven’t been similar events in the past that we can look to for guidance on how to handle things today.
I am going to throw out a few investigative tools and techniques that I think will be useful once claims related to the Coronavirus are filed. When it comes to contracting the Coronavirus, it is all about where people were and who they interacted with.
The first investigative tool that comes to mind would be a vehicle sightings report. This type of report could tell you where the employee was when they allegedly contracted the virus. Were they at home? Were they meeting with a customer? Were they on a job site? These are all questions that need to be answered if we are looking to determine if the virus was contracted in the course and scope of employment.
Another investigative tool that can uncover useful evidence would be Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) and social media research/preservation. What is the employee saying on social media about the virus? Who are they interacting with and where? Are they talking about how a family member or person they reside with tested positive? There are unlimited possibilities when it comes to social media research.
If you have any suggestions or questions, please let me know.