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Process for Lodgement of Workers Compensation Claim for COVID-19 Related Injury

Process for Lodgement of Workers Compensation Claim for COVID-19 Related Injury

Published on April 24, 2020 by Katherine Driscoll and Julia HarrisonKatherine Driscoll and Julia Harrison

All Governments across Australia are taking all necessary action to contain the spread of COVID-19 with the focus is on increasing the number of COVID-19 tests performed on a daily basis and expanding those now eligible for testing.

A concern in the COVID-19 pandemic is whether normal workplace health and safety practices may be forgotten and workers – be they medical, frontline or non-frontline – are then potentially and unwittingly exposed to the virus in a workplace context.

Recently, a number of testing Clinics have been set up in NSW hospitals for testing of frontline staff for the virus and in areas where non-frontline staff[1]

What is the position of a non-frontline worker exposed or potentially exposed to COVID-19 in such circumstances?

A worker exposed to COVID-19 runs the risk of contracting the virus and becoming severely unwell, in need of medical treatment and unfit to work and in some cases, dying as a result of their exposure.

In addition, a significant risk exists of sustaining a psychological injury. This will be as a result of the potential exposure to the virus and the risk of being a carrier, thereby exposing vulnerable members of a community.

Individual workers with pre-existing health complaints/issues may experience an aggravation of such health issues in the course of employment as a result of COVID-19 exposure or potential exposure.

The workers compensation legislation provides that a disease injury and aggravation of such a disease in the course of employment is compensable provided that the employment was the main contributing factor to same.

In NSW 180 COVID-19 related workers compensation claims had been lodged by 23rd April 2020.[2] We expect that these claims arise from COVID-19 exposure or potential exposure in the course of employment in circumstances were not front-line medical staff.

We are now also seeing claims disputed by insurers where the worker does not test positive for the virus, and then declines liability for the claim on the basis that there is no medical evidence of an injury received in the course of employment.

With so little known about COVID-19 and its long-term impact, workers exposed to the virus may experience other long-term health issues despite not testing positive for the virus.

This may include long-term psychological impact and an ability to work.

A worker wishing to lodge a claim for workers compensation benefits for a COVID-19 related injury should complete a workers injury claim form and have their nominated treating doctor complete a WorkCover Certificate of Capacity and lodge both documents with their employer as soon as possible after becoming aware of the injury.

Workers who have their claim for benefits denied should seek legal advice from workers compensation specialists about challenging the decision.

 

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