HILE THE number of COVID-19 workers’ compensation cases filed in California continues to grow, total workplace injury and illness claims in the state fell nearly 20% in the first nine months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

Through November, the state had recorded 65,165 COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims, accounting for 12.2% of all claims reported since the start of the year. During that same period, California workers filed 531,959 workers’ compensation claims, down 17% from the first nine months of 2019.

The first COVID-19 cases among California workers were filed in March. They peaked in July and started to decline in August, just when parts of the state started opening up on a partial basis.

While it’s too early to tell if it’s a harbinger of things to come, the numbers are high enough that employers cannot let their guard down when it comes to preventing the spread of the coronavirus in their workplaces.

Who is filling claims?

The top five sectors reporting COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims during the first 11 months of the year were:

  • Health care: 22,126 claims (36%)
  • Public safety/government: 9,266 claims (15%)
  • Retail: 5,230 claims (8.5%)
  • Manufacturing: 5,193 claims (8.4%)
  • Transportation: 3,484 claims (5.6%)

Overall claims falling

Due to the severe economic slowdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic that forced thousands of businesses to shut their doors or have their employees work from home, the number of overall workplace injuries has tumbled.

There were a total of 531,959 workers’ compensation claims filed in California in the first 11 months of the year, compared to 639,649 claims in the same period of 2019. The case load in November dropped 30% compared to November 2019.

“That decline reflects both the sharp drop in employment, the high number of workers now working from home, and the pandemic driven slowdown in economic activity in the state,” the California Workers’ Compensation Institute wrote in a report about the numbers.

Handling workers’ comp claims

A new law that took effect in September extends workers’ compensation benefits to California employees who contract COVID 19 while working outside of their homes.

To qualify for the presumption, all of the following conditions must be met:

  • The worker must test positive for or be diagnosed with COVID-19 within 14 days after a day they worked at your jobsite at your direction.
  • The day they worked at your jobsite was on or after June 6.
  • The jobsite is not their home or residence.
  • If your worker is diagnosed with COVID-19, the diagnosis was
    done by a medical doctor and confirmed by a positive test for COVID-19 within 30 days of the date of the diagnosis.

The takeaway

If you have an employee who is working on-site and who tests positive for COVID-19, you should let them know about their rights to file for workers’ compensation if they miss work and/or need treatment.

The state’s insurance commissioner has approved new rules that bar insurers from using any COVID-19 claims against your experience modifier (X-Mod), so it won’t hurt your workers’ compensation experience if an employee files a claim.

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