Coronavirus Claims in the Workplace

April 1, 2020 by on News

It is too early to assess with any degree of certainty what the impact of the coronavirus will be on Florida workers’ compensation claims.

What is known is that compensability standards for employment-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) claims suffered by first responders and submitted for workers’ compensation insurance were revised as of October 1, 2018. First responders are defined as volunteers or employees engaged as law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics. The law now allows first responders who meet certain conditions to access indemnity and medical benefits for PTSD without an accompanying physical injury.

Employers and carriers must also consider the implications of having many if not all of their employees work remotely from home. In the 2019 case of Sedgwick v. Valcourt-Williams, a work-from-home employee, an adjuster handling workers’ compensation claims no less, was injured when she tripped over her dog while reaching for a cup of coffee during a break. While the court in that case ruled that the accident and injuries were not compensable, other factual scenarios could lead to accidents that, in turn, could lead to different legal outcomes. Click on the link to read the case summary.

Separately, the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued guidelines on steps all employers can take to reduce workers’ risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Click on the link to access OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19.

Time will tell how coronavirus workers’ compensation claims filed by workers outside of the first responder and healthcare networks will be handled by the courts. Questions to be addressed will include the high burden needed to prove employment causation, and thereby compensability for claims within the workers’ compensation context.

Blake J. Hood
Direct: 904.493.3757

Mr. Hood devotes his practice to the defense of employers and insurance carriers in claims and appeals arising under the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act as well as claims brought under the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. He is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Workers’ Compensation, a designation he earned in 2013. He is an expert in workers’ compensation law dealing with the analysis and litigation of problems or controversies arising out of the Florida Workers’ Compensation Law.

His practice extends throughout the state of Florida, and he is licensed to practice law in North Carolina as well. He represents many insurance carriers and third party administrators. Additionally, he lectures on various topics concerning state and federal workers’ compensation claims.

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