Employers across the country are complying with legislation to accept COVID-19 claims by presuming compensation to workers, changes that do not necessarily guarantee that such claims of communicable diseases will go green but instead promise a sharp increase in disputes and confusion, say experts.
Given the many nuances of the new laws, employers are "worried about staying on top" of the adoption trend, says Ralph Touch, Fleetwood, Pennsylvania-based senior vice president of tort law at Gallagher Bassett Services Inc. For the first time, we have the entire insurance industry to learn new laws on the go, he says. "These are very big changes and they are happening fast. We apply an illness (on work compensation) that you can walk on the street.
“There is no (case law) history, we do not have time to understand the consequences of court decisions and we have to make decisions.
As of Tuesday, lawmakers in nine states had enacted laws that clear the bureaucracy of certain workers to have their illnesses covered as a compensable work-related injury, and lawmakers in 1
Alaska, California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming have presumption laws in place, according to the NCCI.
Many of the laws, such as those signed by the California government Gavin Newsom on Thursday and Illinois passed in early June, are "rebuttable," meaning that an employer can dispute whether a worker was infected at work.  Some apply only to specific types of workers, marked as "essential" in many states – such as the one adopted in New Jersey on September 14 – or apply strictly to those in health care or who work as first responders. Vermont's law only applies to "frontline workers" whose jobs expose them to "increased risk."
Will the assumption continue? Experts say they expect more states to take legislative action, as a number already have executive orders or other directives that allow for presumption, as California did before the matter became law.
"Employers were not shocked," said Benjamin Ebbink, a Sacramento-based partner with Fisher Phillips LLP, from the latest state to sign in – California. He called California law "complicated" by enabling debate about where the virus was transmitted – as many of the new laws do – and requiring a proven outbreak in the workplace.
There is "a lot of room for maneuver," he said. "Lawyers on both sides will question" over COVID-19 claims.
The changes also put workplace safety in focus, "said Harry DeCourcy, Walnut Creek, California. based shareholder with Littler Mendelson PC
"Everyone is trying to do the right thing" when it comes to taking precautionary measures, he said. Adoption laws "will only provide more monetary incentives to do so."
Under Illinois law, the counter-evidence can include details of workplace safety measures such as a return to workers who say they got the virus at work.
"Most of my clients have pushed back against COVID claims mostly in the idea that it is not clear that it is related to work. , even with the rebuttable assumption, "says Rich Lenkov, capital member and head of employment compensation at Bryce Downey & Lenkov LLC in Chicago.
"It is very difficult to prove that you got it at work," he said, adding that the three-month-old Adoption Act "has not resulted in the huge amount of claims we would believe, largely because of the difficulty of prove "where you were infected.
More insurance and work compensation news about the coronavirus crisis here .