Have you been working from home lately more so than ever? If so, you are not alone. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced all sorts of workplaces to adapt by sending as many of their employees home as possible. From therapists and financial experts to graphic designers and office workers, working from home and all of the changes it brings have become the new normal.
Did all of the changes affect your workers’ compensation benefits, though? Can you really file for workers’ comp when your “workplace” accident happens in your own home? The short answer is ‘yes,’ but it worth going into the details a bit to get a better understanding of why.
Workers’ Compensation Considers Workers, Not Workplaces
The root of workers’ compensation insurance is providing medical benefits and sometimes wage replacement benefits to qualifying employees. In simple terms, if a worker suffers a work-related injury, then they can file for workers’ compensation benefits. Where that accident occurs is a secondary factor.
For example, a barista slips on a spilled drink while ringing up a customer. They can file for workers’ compensation because they were performing a work-related task and because they were in their workplace when it happened. Now imagine that the same barista was asked to go to the grocery store a few stores down to pick up creamer because the coffee shop ran out. While the barista was walking along the street to get to the store, they slip on wet asphalt, fall, and suffer a serious leg injury. Even though they were not in their workplace at the time of their fall, they were completing a job-related task and, therefore, can qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
The same sort of justification can apply to people who are working remotely or from home. If they are hurt while performing a job-related duty, even if it is not in their original job description, then they should be able to file their claim all the same.
Complications with Work Injuries at Home
If you qualify for workers’ compensation benefits through your employer, you are still not guaranteed benefits if you get injured. Insurance companies that sell employers workers’ comp policies still have the ability to challenge or deny a claim. Most denials argue that the type of injury is not covered under the policy, or that the claimant was not actually completing a work-related duty when they were hurt. While working from home, proving that your injury happened due to a work-related reason can be a challenge because, assumedly, there was no one else around to see what happened.
For example, imagine that you are an office worker who had to bring their heavy computer tower home to keep working. While lugging the computer tower up your stairs to your home office, you accidentally drop it on your foot, breaking the bone. If that accident happened in your office, then you would very likely be able to receive workers’ comp benefits that pay for your necessary medical treatments. But if that accident happened at home, then the insurer would probably try to deny it because they would have reason to argue that you were injured while doing something else entirely.
Certain injuries suffered by remote workers could be more difficult for an insurer to challenge, though. Carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive stress injuries (RSI) are commonly associated with office work, such as using a keyboard and mouse for hours each day. If you have been working from your home office, and then were diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, then it would stand to reason that there is a probable connection between your injury and your work.
Workers’ Comp is a No-Fault System
Insurance companies might have a difficult time denying a claim filed by a remote worker in any circumstance due to the fact that workers’ compensation is meant to be a no-fault system. Any injured employee who was not trying to get hurt while working should be able to claim benefits, even if it was their own mistake that caused their injury. This no-fault system creates a high evidential burden that an insurer will have to overcome if they want to deny a claim. If you are injured while working from home, then you might not have much evidence to prove how your accident happened, but neither will the opposing insurance company.
This situation can start to feel like a word-against-word case, which is not ideal for any party. You should hire a workers’ compensation lawyer who can manage your claim if you want to bolster your chances of success against an insurance company that might be eager to deny your benefits. An experienced attorney will know what workers’ compensation insurance companies usually do to deny claims, anticipate those tactics, and prepare your case for it in advance. In some situations, a challenge letter following a claim denial can be enough to get an insurance company to concede or reverse its stance if the law firm representing the claimant is preceded by their reputation and case results.
Representing Remote Workers in Hialeah
Morales & Cerino in Hialeah, Florida is a reputable law firm with an intentional focus on difficult workers’ compensation claims. We have adapted our office to better serve clients throughout the pandemic and the new difficulties it has created. If you suffered a work-related injury while working from home, but you are not sure if you can actually get workers’ compensation benefits, then please give us a call at (305) 340-2630. During a free initial consultation, we can discuss if your claim is valid and should be pursued.
About the Author
Ivan P. Morales is a partner at Morales & Cerino, P.A. He takes on a wide range of workers' compensation cases and is devoted to helping those who have been injured. He has been serving clients throughout South Florida for nearly 30 years