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by Matt Shealy | May 13, 2020

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As the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, many questions are continuing to emerge. One of these questions is: Are people who contract Covid-19 covered by worker’s compensation insurance coverage?

What is worker’s compensation insurance coverage?

First, it’s important to understand what workers’ compensation insurance is. It’s an insurance policy that covers claims that arise if an employee is injured or becomes ill due to work-related causes. And typically, although it varies from state to state, a business with more than one employee is mandated by law to have workers’ compensation coverage.

The need for businesses to carry workers’ comp insurance policies began in 1911. Until then, workers who became ill or suffered an injury due to work-related causes had to sue their employers to get compensation. And, as expected, this made it hard for employees to get compensated, and also exposed employers to financial difficulties.

Workers’ compensation insurance, therefore, came in handy to ensure that workers received proper financial compensation as well as a prompt medical treatment for any work-related injuries or illnesses. (If you’re a small business owner and haven't secured a policy, consider getting a workers’ compensation insurance quote.)

So, is Covid-19 covered under workers’ compensation insurance?

Covid-19 is a new disease, so policymakers across the world need to come up with ways to deal with the new challenges that come with it. Among other things, they need to decide how workers’ compensation insurance will deal with workers infected with COVID-19.

In addition to varying by state, workers’ compensation varies by occupation, industry, and the size of a business. So, whether or not workers’ compensation will cover Covid-10 is a complicated question. Generally, workers’ compensation doesn’t cover infectious diseases such as flu or cold, since they’re not directly related to the workplace. However, depending on the state, workers who develop chronic medical issues due to exposure to toxic environments are covered.

The Covid-19 pandemic presents a unique situation, with jobs that haven’t been traditionally deemed to be dangerous presenting grave dangers to workers. Nurses, police officers, transit workers, delivery workers, and grocery store employees are all at a higher risk of contracting Covid-19. But even though these essential service providers are at a higher risk than non-essential workers of becoming infected, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be covered under worker’s compensation.

How are states are responding to Covid-19 claims?

Some state laws and procedures allow workers who can demonstrate that they were infected with Covid-19 at work to benefits from workers' compensation policies. Other states, either by legislation or executive order, have changed their laws and regulations to allow worker who contract Covid-19 at work to be covered by workers’ compensation.

Many states, however, only cover healthcare workers, while others include essential services providers such as grocery store workers. In most cases, workers will need to demonstrate that the illness is due to work or occupation.

So, it’s important to check out the laws in the state you work. For example, here’s a FAQ page for Covid-19 workers’ comp claims in New York, and here’s a FAQ page for Covid-19 claims in New Jersey.

Will workers’ comp claims rise due to Covid-19?

Now that most people are working from home, workers’ compensation claims are actually likely to drop. However, this doesn’t apply across all industries, as employers will face claims from other exposures, too.

As a way of observing social distancing, many businesses are operating online. But some businesses such as those in hospitality, transportation, retail, manufacturing, and distribution are unable to transition to remote work. As a result, workers can still contract Covid-19 from their interactions with customers and coworkers.

Medical professionals, first responders, and public safety workers also face similar challenges. What’s more, workers across these industries may be working harder and for extra hours, leading to overexertion claims. A large percentage of these claims could be covered under workers’ compensation policies.

Matt Shealy is the president of ChamberofCommerce.com. Chamber specializes in helping small businesses grow their business on the web while facilitating the connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 chambers of commerce worldwide.

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