Even after the worst part of the coronavirus pandemic subsides, it will likely take many years to assess the ways it has altered American society and culture. Certainly, the effects on employment and the healthcare industry will be significant, so we should expect laws to change to address those changed circumstances. Accordingly, states might be compelled to revise the laws and regulations governing their workers’ compensation programs.
By examining the ways in which workers’ compensation claims have already been affected, we might be able to gain some insight as to how cases stemming from employment-related injuries and illnesses will be handled in the short and long term. Developments that might lead to an overhaul of the workers’ comp system include:
- Shift toward working from home — Now that the country has gotten an unexpected crash course in working from home, many employers will likely judge the results and determine if permanent changes should be implemented. Along with reduced rent and transportation costs, decentralized employment drastically reduces the need for workers’ compensation coverage. While the sharp decline in claims will surely reverse once things return to normal, it’s not certain that we’ll see workplace injures ever reach the pre-pandemic level.
- New methods of medical evaluation — The coronavirus crisis has taxed the U.S. healthcare system in numerous ways. With so much fear about COVID-19 exposure among both patients and medical professionals, telemedicine has rapidly become standard operating procedure for a wide range of conditions. Cost and doctor availability already had many healthcare providers moving in that direction. Future workers’ compensation actions might be decided by medical evaluations during which the doctor and claimant were never in the same room.
- Distinctions about when someone can return to their job — Wage replacement for workers’ compensation recipients is centered on when an individual can return to the workplace. Even after the worst part of the pandemic is over, there still will be a danger of exposure, especially for people in high-risk groups. Decisions on how long someone collects benefits might hinge on their medical history, geographic location and the contact they would have with others on the job.
Whether you’re dealing with a case involving potential coronavirus exposure or a different type of workers’ compensation claim, retaining a knowledgeable attorney to represent your interests will increase your chances for a favorable result.
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Mastagni Holstedt, APC represents clients in workers’ compensation filings and appeals. Please contact the firm online to set up a consultation.