Members Alan G. Brackett and Daniel P. Sullivan are now co-writing an “Attorney Analysis” column for Reuters Legal News. Their second column, “Analyzing workers’ compensation liability for COVID-19 infections,” was published on September 13, 2021. You can read an excerpt below and download the PDF to read the entire article.
Click here to read their first article, “Analyzing COVID-19 claims under the Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.”
Analyzing Workers’ Compensation Liability for COVID-19 Infections
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, state legislatures across the country have acted to more clearly define how workers infected with COVID-19 in the course of their employment would be treated under state workers’ compensation laws. For example, the State of Illinois enacted HB 2445, which created a rebuttable presumption that essential workers who contracted COVID-19 did so in the course of their employment and would be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
During the 2021 legislative session, the State of Louisiana was unsuccessful in passing any legislation that provided special protection to essential workers. Senate Bill 475 would have provided that every essential worker — specifically those working in public safety, government, disaster response, health care, or private business designated as necessary — would be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits as if the essential worker had sustained a bodily injury traditionally covered by workers’ compensation law.
There has been no further movement to address COVID-19 under the Louisiana workers’ compensation law: there is still no special categorization of essential worker, nor is COVID-19 an explicitly recognized injury under Louisiana workers’ compensation law. With the general population becoming vaccinated and the COVID-19 virus becoming more manageable (notwithstanding the Delta variant), legislative intervention seems unlikely.
Workers covered under Louisiana’s workers’ compensation laws continue to lose time due to this virus. With no legislation fast-tracking the compensability of COVID-19 claims, employers, their workers’ compensation carriers and administrators must look to a more traditional analysis of whether a workplace injury or illness is covered under the Louisiana workers’ compensation statute. Specifically, defense stakeholders need to determine whether COVID-19 claims would be considered “accidental injuries” or “occupational diseases” in order to properly administer, and potentially defend, a COVID-19 claim.