A bill which would create the presumption of causation for Colorado worker’s who contract COVID-19 at work was argued before the Colorado Senate Finance Committee on the evening of June 8, 2020. The Bill was forwarded to the Appropriations Committee. The purpose of the bill would be to shift the burden of proof in a COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Claim from the essential worker to the employer. Understanding what this means starts with the premise that a worker that contracts COVID-19 in the course of their employment is covered by the Colorado Workers’ Compensation Act.
We have all heard of the effects of COVID-19 on food processing plants around the country and in Colorado. These workers are facing extreme hardship due to their employer being deemed essential and their continued dedication to keeping the supply chain operating. When there are hundreds of fellow employees suffering from COVID-19 it is quite certain an infected employee could prove the causal relationship between the employment duties and the virus, but without the burden being shifted this can be time consuming and burdensome with big companies and insurance carriers denying benefits for months. This is simply too much for these workers to overcome and by shifting this burden it will speed up much needed benefits to these workers.
Big companies and insurance carriers which are opposing the bill argue that the financial burden associated with covering a COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Claim, which has the potential of becoming a death claim, is too much to handle and seek protection. They claim that businesses and insurance carriers are already struggling during this time. Yet the businesses from which we are seeing a high infection rate continue to operate and some to a higher degree than before the shutdown.
The workers, on the other hand, are being infected while on the job and are suffering financial devastation, temporary and permanent disability and even death. The workers ask why they should have the burden caused by COVID-19 squarely upon their shoulders after putting their health and life on the line.
The legislation does not change what is covered but would only tend to support the infected worker who suffers such an exposure on the job. Similar laws regarding shifting the presumption already exist in Colorado with regard to specific workers that are often exposed to specified risks.
At Anderson & Lopez we have helped injured workers for over 30 years. We know just how important something like this can be for the worker. While the odds of COVID-19 causing someone to suffer a hospitalization, disability or death are low, when it happens to you or someone you love you should not have to worry about a law that helps the insurance carrier and big companies avoid responsibility. These big companies, which used “essential workers” to keep revenue flowing now need to be made to support those same workers. If you’ve been injured on the job, call Anderson & Lopez at (719) 471-1818 for local, personal representation.
UPDATE—Bill was defeated in the Senate June 10, 2020