We are receiving many questions from clients and others about the effect that the coronavirus will have on workers’ comp claims. Some of the questions we are being asked include:
In this article, we will try our best to answer these questions the information we have available. This is new territory for the lawyers as well. Remember, this pandemic is always changing and the government orders and ordinances will continue to change and evolve. If you have a question about your specific workers’ compensation case, we advise you to contact your attorney for advice.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention released the following guidelines on March 15, 2020:
“Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities. Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies. These events can be planned not only by organizations and communities but also by individuals.
Therefore, CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.
Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, hand hygiene, and social distancing. When feasible, organizers could modify events to be virtual.”
The basic takeaway from the latest guideline is that people should maintain social distancing and attempt to modify events so that they will not be around large groups of people.
UNFORTUNATELY, THESE RECOMMENDATIONS AND GUIDELINES DIRECTLY IMPACT MANY ASPECTS OF WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CLAIMS.
On March 13, 2020, we received the following email from the chairman and Appellate Division Judge, Frank McKay, of the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation:
“The Board is actively monitoring developments regarding COVID-19/Novel Coronavirus. The safety and wellbeing of our staff and visitors are of utmost concern. Our goal is to continue to carry out our daily business functions in the most responsible manner possible. In light of the current pandemic, the Board is postponing all hearings for the period Monday, March 16, 2020 through Friday March 27, 2020. Cases will be rescheduled to the next available date.(Emphasis added). If that date does not work for you or your clients/witnesses, please let us know and we will work with you to move the hearing to a different day and/or location. The Board will continue to monitor this situation in accordance with state and federal guidelines. Thank you for your patience and understanding. Be safe and take care.”
Below we will attempt to answer some of the most common questions we have received from clients and others.
Yes, the coronavirus should have absolutely no effect on your receipt of weekly workers’ compensation checks. If you haven’t gotten your weekly check, contact your attorney immediately if you have one. If you don’t have a Georgia workers’ compensation lawyer, contact us immediately.
Often times insurance companies have an “automatic stop” on sending workers’ compensation checks that must be checked every so often. The reason for doing this is to ensure that adjusters are looking at each file. The adjuster has to proactively enter information to ensure that indemnity checks continue to be paid. If there is a limited work schedule mandated by insurance companies, your checks may be in danger due to this.
Contact us at The Van Dora Law Firm if you are not receiving your workers’ compensation check or if your check is late.
These are excellent questions that need to be handled on a case-by-case basis. Each doctor’s office is handling this differently.
For example, Athens Orthopedic Clinic sent an email stating that they now have telehealth virtual appointments. This means that for regular follow up visits, they will be doing them via video conference. Additionally, they requested that any patient who has a fever, cough, shortness of breath, or has been exposed to the virus or been to an area affected by the virus to reschedule their surgery or appointment. Finally, they asked that no one attend the appointment unless the injured individual required assistance.
BEFORE GOING TO ANY DOCTOR’S APPOINTMENT, CONTACT THE OFFICE TO MAKE SURE THEY ARE STILL SEEING PATIENTS.
If you are unsure about attending the appointment, call your lawyer so they can let the provider know and the insurance company to avoid any bad consequences on your case.
You should still be able to get the medication you need from your pharmacy so long as you have a current prescription from an authorized treating physician under the workers comp insurance coverage. This should not change during the current corona virus outbreak. The government has indicated that pharmacies will stay open, and Target and Walmart both announced they will continue to serve customers. Some of these pharmacies have changed hours, but you should still be able to get medications during the times the drug stores are open.
It is very unlikely that any court dates will be going forward in the next month or so. The Supreme Court of Georgia issued an opinion postponing all court activity until mid April other than a select few areas.
Even with hearings being postponed and delayed, it is still very important that you cooperate and assist your lawyer in the discovery process. This means providing answers to interrogatories when they are sent to you, and helping your lawyer in answering admissions when they are served. This will help speed up the process once court is back on the schedule.
Depositions may still take place but will likely be done over video conference. This will be a little different but should help keep your case moving along.
You’ll need to contact your attorney with regards to mediation. Mediations can still be held telephonically or via video conferencing. Each mediation practice is handling it differently, so it is important to reach out to your attorney and ask them what the procedure will be. We are working with several mediators who have the technological capabilities to host video mediations. This is very helpful to help settle workers' compensation cases.
Things are constantly changing with the different restrictions and ordinances that are being placed on doctors, law firms, insurance companies and individuals by the CDC, state and federal governments. If you are currently our client, don’t hesitate to call or email us at The Van Dora Law Firm for an update on your case.
If you have any questions about work injury case in Georgia and are don’t have a lawyer, we would love to hear from you and help come up with a game plan for your case.
The Van Dora Law Firm has offices in Hartwell and Athens Georgia to help better serve our clients. We handle workers' comp claims all over the state of Georgia including but not limited to Lavonia, Toccoa, Athens, Hartwell, Watkinsville, Jefferson, Pendergrass, Gainesville, Elberton, Danielsville, and Royston.