The average American workplace during the coronavirus pandemic looks much different than it did at the beginning of the year. When employers are not finding creative ways to keep employees and/or customers six feet apart, they are instead choosing to let more and more employees work from home. Getting to work from home is a welcome benefit for many people, and it shouldn’t interrupt their normal benefits, such as healthcare insurance and salary. Are employees who once worked in an office, retail store, or any other location but now work from home still covered by workers’ compensation, though?
Workers’ Compensation Covers Work, Not Just Workplaces
Most stories of workers’ compensation involve someone getting hurt in their workplace, like a construction worker falling off a scaffolding or a retail store clerk slipping on a spill. Workers’ compensation benefits should be provided to any eligible worker who is hurt in their workplace, regardless of fault.
But placing blanket coverage over an entire workplace is not the only way that workers’ compensation coverage functions. Workers’ compensation also covers eligible workers who are hurt while performing an expected work duty, regardless of where they were and of fault. This clause in a workers’ compensation policy used to be used mainly by couriers who have to head out into the world to complete a delivery, like a food carrier who gets hit by a drunk driver while bringing a meal to a customer’s door. Yet it also applies to workers who are permanently or temporarily working from home.
As long as your at-home injury was related to your work in some way, you should be able to file for workers’ compensation benefits, like medical treatment costs and possibly wage replacement benefits if you are unable to work for a while.
Was Your Injury Work-Related or Just in the Workplace?
There is an issue with trying to file a workers’ compensation claim as someone who was injured while working from home: showing your injury was work-related in some way. Workers’ comp is a no-fault system, which means you can get coverage even if your accident was your fault and caused by your honest mistake. But it doesn’t mean that you can get coverage for any injury at all.
For example, you slip in the shower and hurt your back. Although you are working from home and your shower is in your home, the act of taking a shower is probably not related to your work, so that injury would not qualify for workers’ compensation coverage.
What if you were making yourself lunch in your kitchen, slipped on the tile, and bumped your head, all while on your lunch break? This situation is far more complicated, and the answer could go either way, depending on how well your claim is handled. Your employer requires you to take a lunch break, so being on lunch doesn’t automatically disqualify you from getting coverage. You would also be covered if you took the same spill in your employer’s breakroom back at the office, so you might be able to argue that your injury is technically work-related.
In a straightforward case, imagine that you sprain your hand from typing for hours each day in your home office. It should be pretty clear to your employer and their insurance provider that your injury is work-related and warrants workers’ compensation that lets you rest your hand as long as your doctor orders.
Lack of Evidence Can Be Problematic
Whenever there is some doubt as to the authenticity of a claimant’s work-related injury, the solution is often to point to available evidence. Coworker testimonies and closed-circuit television footage from around the workplace are two reliable ways to establish the truth of a worker’s injuries. Yet there might be no evidence available at all in a work-related accident suffered by an employee who is working from home. At most, you could maybe hope that your accident happened during a company Zoom meeting that everyone witnessed.
Complex Situations Call for Representation
When a work-from-home accident has so much potential for complexity, the smart move might be to get a workers’ compensation attorney on your side as soon as possible. A lawyer can help you file your claim, answer any inquiries from your employer or their insurance provider, and challenge a claim denial. All the while, you can focus on taking care of yourself so you can get back to work and put the entire situation behind you.
Do you live in Harrisburg and got hurt while working from home? Metzger Wickersham and our workers’ compensation lawyers would be happy to hear from you to see if we can help you pursue an optimal outcome. We have more than 135 years of experience helping people get workers’ comp benefits in all sorts of industries and workplaces, including in-home offices. Call (888) 286-2850 for more information.