Work From Home has allowed many people to avoid dangers associated with coronavirus.
But the Work From Home push has had some unintended consequences.
For example, remote workers are at risk for Computer Vision Syndrome. Long hours in front of a screen with few breaks could eventually cause blindness.
There is increased risk for trauma injuries as well. Most falls occur at home.
Workers’ compensation provides no-fault insurance benefits which take care of injury-related medical bills.
Other benefits replace lost wages. Establishing a work-related connection is often the most difficult aspect of a workers’ compensation claim.
This connection is even harder to show if the victim was working from home.
This uncertainty gives insurance company lawyers a chance to contest the claim.
Many courts are sympathetic to this argument. So, victims need a tough New York workers’ compensation attorney to fight for them and level the playing field.
Without such representation, many of these victims wind up settling their claims for far less than full value.
Showing a Work-Related Connection
In a few cases, a work-related connection is not hard to prove.
But generally, pre-existing or co-existing conditions muddy the waters.
Hearing loss is a good example of these problems. Statistically, hearing loss is one of the most common occupational diseases in the United States.
That statistic probably makes it easier to establish a work-related connection in a difficult environment.
Most people do not just hear loud noises at work.
They are exposed to danger during off-work hours as well. Pre-existing conditions, most notably age, also contribute to these injuries.
A variation of the eggshell skull rule protects these victims. Insurance companies cannot use a victim’s vulnerabilities as an excuse to reduce or deny compensation.
WFH injuries are complex as well. Once again, the environment favors victims.
Employers are responsible for safety not just in work areas, but also in common areas, like break rooms and employee lounges.
So, there is basically a three-part test to determine work-related connection.
- Employer Benefit: The benefit need not be direct or even significant. For example, workers’ compensation typically covers injuries sustained at a company softball game. Employers benefit from these activities not only because of the free advertising, but also because they make workers happier and healthier.
- Work Requirement: Generally, employers require WFH employees to be at their workstations most of the day. Typically, there is at least an informal requirement to immediately answer work-related texts and emails. Assume Sara was walking her dog when a text came in. She was distracted, stumbled in the darkness, and fell. Her injury could be work-related.
- Employer Approval: Most employers approve computer workstations in advance. In fact, they frequently provide the equipment. Many times, this equipment causes injury. For example, elevating one’s wrists above the elbows while typing could cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. If not promptly and properly treated, CTS could cause paralysis.
Courts usually give injured workers the benefit of the doubt in these disputes.
Speedy resolution protects employees by giving them the financial benefits they need to recover.
This approach also protects employers. If they do not get the help they need through workers’ compensation, many injured workers sue their employers for negligence.
The Workers’ Compensation Process
Appeals courts might be pro-victim in these cases.
But Claims Examiners, who initially review these cases, are decidedly anti-victim. These individuals routinely deny claims, at least in part.
Do not take this denial personally. Furthermore, the denial does not mean your case is meritless or weak.
Claims Examiners deny claims in the hopes that the victim will either abandon the matter or settle the claim for far less than it is worth.
At a subsequent appeal hearing, victims have a much better chance of obtaining fair compensation.
At this administrative law hearing, which is basically a private trial, attorneys can challenge evidence, introduce evidence, and make legal arguments.
Fair compensation for a work-related injury usually includes medical bill payment and lost wage replacement.
Medical bill payment applies to all reasonably necessary direct costs, like hospitalization, and ancillary costs, like medevac transportation.
As for lost wages, most victims receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage until they return to work.
These awards are usually retroactive to the filing date.
If you are hurt while working from home, financial assistance is available. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik, PLLC.