5 Ways COVID-19 could impact your workers' comp costs

What a difference a month makes. Thirty days ago, the economy was firing on all cylinders, unemployment was at a near 50-year low, and few people had ever heard the word coronavirus. Now the pandemic has turned our lives upside down and thrown millions of businesses and families into crisis mode.

Uncertainty has become the new normal.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a level of uncertainty unimaginable just a few short weeks ago. According to the Johns Hopkins’s Coronavirus Resource Center, the virus has hit at least 172 countries, with more than a million cases confirmed worldwide. As of April 8, the U.S. had more than 400,000 confirmed cases, the most of any country in the world.

For employers, it’s been a time of adapting and re-tooling. Questions and uncertainties are in greater supply than solutions. And millions of workers have either been laid off or are hunkered down working from home.

So how will COVID-19 impact your workers’ compensation program and costs?

It’s too early to tell what the ultimate impact will be, but here are five potential scenarios:

1. A flood of COVID-19 related claims. Those on the front lines – first responders, healthcare workers, grocery retailers, and other essential services workers – are at greater risk for both infection and exhaustion from working overtime. That could mean a spike in claims.

2. Claims “gray areas.” Those employees working from home can still be exposed to the virus at the grocery store or other public spaces. But will they be covered for COVID-19 if they file a claim? Viruses aren’t typically compensable, but workers’ comp carriers are under increasing pressure to cover COVID-19 cases. Even if a claim is denied, an injured worker’s attorney would likely appeal at the WCAB, which could keep the claim open for years.

3. Slower claims processing. The workers’ compensation insurance industry is dealing with the same business disruption as many other industries. Many offices have closed, while others are operating with a skeleton crew with most employees working from home. Also, modified work, return-to-work, and vocational rehabilitation job placement options are all now on the back burner for many employers due to downsizing or temporary shutdowns. All these things translate into a slower claim process and possibly a growing backlog of controverted claims, especially as more people get infected.

4. Ergonomic-related claims. Millions of employees are suddenly working remotely, but it’s unlikely they all have an ergonomically correct workstation at home. How many companies perform ergonomic assessments of their remote employees’ workspaces? Even those that do are likely restricted from doing so now. Employers could see an uptick in ergonomic injuries such as tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and low back injuries.

5. Delayed treatment for injured workers. The entire healthcare system is in crisis mode right now dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. That means many physician, physical therapist, and other treatment schedules for injured workers are getting put on hold. And that means higher overall claim costs.

How are you adapting?

COVID-19 will likely be impacting your workers’ compensation program and costs for some time. The ability to adapt is key to survival right now. And you need an insurance partner that can provide protection and stability in this unstable environment. Samuel Hale stands ready to guide you through these uncertain times.

SAMUEL HALE, LLC helps protect California businesses from unpredictable and high employment costs due to fraud and litigation in workers’ compensation claims. Our unique program eliminates fraud and unnecessary litigation, reducing clients’ workers’ comp premiums. Visit us at www.samuelhale.com for more information.