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Has COVID-19 Affected Workers' Compensation?

The pandemic has significantly impacted many aspects of everyday life for employers and employees alike. If you have legal concerns or questions about a COVID-19-related workers’ compensation claim or how the virus has generally impacted workers’ compensation, read our blog for more information. Our attorneys at Bridges, Jillisky, Weller & Gullifer, LLC can provide you the legal support you need in this time.

Workers’ Compensation During COVID-19

Ohio’s Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) underwrites insurance coverage for work-related injuries and illnesses for public and private sector employers conducting business in the state. The bureau also oversees all the workers' compensation programs. All medical and lost-time claims are handled by the bureau, which initiates coverage and determines premium rates and manual classifications.

Recall that Ohio is one of four states where workers’ compensation insurance is provided through the state rather than through private insurance companies. Individuals can apply for workers’ compensation insurance from the state by completing the BWC’s Application for Ohio Workers’ Compensation Coverage (Form U-3) online.

Apart from obtaining medical care through workers’ compensation, an injured employee should notify their employer of their injury. The employee, the employee’s medical provider, the employer’s managed care organization, or the employer themself must report the injury or accident to the BWC through a First Report of an Injury (FROI), which can be filed on paper or online.

How Does COVID-19 Factor Into Workers’ Compensation?

According to Ohio’s workers’ compensation laws, contracting COVID-19 may be eligible for a compensable workers’ compensation claim, depending on how the employee contracts the virus and the nature of their occupation. Generally, communicable diseases like COVID-19 are not workers’ compensation claims because people can be exposed in a variety of ways despite their occupation, and few jobs have a hazard or risk of getting the diseases in a greater degree or different manner than in the general public. However, if a person does work in a job that poses a special hazard or risk and contracts COVID-19 from their work exposure, BWC can allow their claim for workers’ compensation following virus contraction.

Note that generally, COVID-related testing prior to surgery would not be covered or reimbursable unless COVID-19 was allowed in the initial workers’ compensation claim. However, BWC recognizes that an injured worker who is positive for COVID-19 may be at greater risk for negative surgical complications. Therefore, to help the surgeon and injured worker determine if surgery postponement is appropriate and to prevent greater risk for negative health consequences during or following surgery, one pre-surgical COVID-19 test may be authorized under the claim when the injured worker is scheduled for an in-patient or out-patient surgery to be performed at a hospital or Ambulatory Surgical Center (ASC).

As the pandemic has led to state-wide and country-wide layoffs, many individuals may be facing job losses and consequent job searches. It is possible that wage-loss benefits may be discontinued, even if an individual is unable to complete their job search. BWC is working with injured workers, though, to complete online job searches, and they encourage individuals who have been affected by COVID-19 to visit the state’s job’s website to apply for newly opened positions. BWC may help conduct job search activities like resume submissions, online interviewing or resume tutorials, or interview practice.

Seek an Experienced Lawyer in Your Workers’ Compensation Case

An executive order issued by Governor DeWine following COVID-19 has expanded the flexibility for Ohioans to receive unemployment benefits during the state’s emergency declaration period, so even if you are not eligible for workers’ compensation as related to the virus, you may qualify for particular unemployment benefits if they are still in place. As the future of the virus remains uncertain, though, so do COVID-19-specific rules, like unemployment benefits. If you have any legal concerns about your workers’ compensation claims or eligibility, especially how they may factor in the virus, contact Bridges, Jillisky, Weller & Gullifer, LLC for legal guidance.

Let our firm help you obtain the compensation you deserve as an employee, especially during this tough time. Contact Bridges, Jillisky, Weller & Gullifer, LLC to speak with one of our attorneys today!