COVID-19/Coronavirus: Your Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Questions Answered
Is Mottaz & Sisk Injury Law open during the COVID-19 Stay at Home Executive Order?
Yes, our work is considered essential and our office remains open to serve our clients and connect with new clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. While most of our office staff is working from home, we continue to provide the same level of exceptional service. We are here to answer your questions and help get you through this challenging time. Although we are not currently doing in-person meetings, we are available to connect through phone or video conferencing.
Will my Minnesota workers’ compensation case be affected by COVID-19?
On March 25, 2020, Governor Walz issued a Stay At Home Executive Order. As part of that Executive Order, Governor Walz determined that legal services, such as those being provided to injured workers, are essential. This means injured workers can continue to receive benefits and lawyers can continue to represent them. Consequently, our office, the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) and the Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) are still operating during the pandemic.
Will my workers’ compensation benefits be affected?
Depending on your injury and situation, your benefits may be affected. For example, if you are laid-off while receiving wage loss benefits, see the information below. However, if you are receiving temporary total disability benefits, it is unlikely your wage loss benefits will be affected. It is always a good idea to discuss your individual situation with an attorney. A little guidance during this time can go a long way. Our office offers free consultations by phone or video conference. Call, text or email us today to schedule.
What should I do if I have an upcoming independent medical exam (IME)?
If you have an upcoming IME scheduled between March and May, it is very likely it will get rescheduled. Many IME doctors are declining to see injured workers due to the COVID-19. Before going to your IME, reach out to your adjuster or workers’ compensation attorney to verify whether your IME is going forward.
Are workers’ compensation hearings and conferences going forward?
Because OAH and DOLI are required to be open, hearings and conferences are continuing to be held. Many of these conferences and hearings are being completed by phone and efforts are being made to allow them to be done by videoconferencing sometime soon. In limited situations, hearings are being held in person with rules in place to make sure the parties maintain the appropriate social distancing. In other situations, hearings and conferences are being postposed for a later date. Please contact your workers’ compensation attorney or OAH/DOLI if you have further questions.
Despite the difficulties in adapting to new ways of handling these disputes, the Judges, Mediators and Arbitrators are doing everything they can to continue to allow cases to move forward. We believe this will continue to take place.
I was laid off because of COVID-19, but I have work restrictions relating to my work injury, what benefits can I receive?
- Workers’ Compensation
Depending on the status of your workers’ compensation case, you may be entitled to temporary total disability benefits (TTD). TTD benefits are a form of compensation available to you if you are unable to work because of the work injury, or you are released to work with restrictions, but are unable to find work within those restrictions. The TTD rate is two-thirds of your gross wage at the time of the injury, subject to certain maximum and minimums.
The key to receiving TTD is whether you are at Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). If you are not yet at MMI, or you are within 90 days of being found MMI, you still may be entitled to TTD benefits. If you believe you are in this situation it may be beneficial to speak with an experienced Minnesota workers’ compensation attorney. A Claim Petition may need to be filed to get those benefits for you.
Currently, the law does not allow for temporary partial disability (TPD) to be paid if you are not working and earning wages. This is extremely detrimental for those who were laid off and had been receiving temporary partial due to their restrictions. Reason being, if the employee now applies for unemployment, they would receive a reduced rate if eligible, based their reduced wages not on the workers’ compensation payment. Furthermore, workers’ compensation would not be required to make up the difference between unemployment and their pre-injury wages. Hopefully, the legislature will change the law quickly to help those in need.
If your job has been affected by COVID-19, you can apply for unemployment benefits right away. You can apply online at https://www.uimn.org/applicants/. The website also has information regarding eligibility and how to apply.
- Social Security Disability Benefits
You may be eligible to apply for SSDI benefits. It will all depend on your ability to work and find alternative work. Again, it may be beneficial to speak with one of our attorneys regarding entitlement. For more information, visit our website here.
- Health Insurance
Your health insurance may continue, or you may be eligible for COBRA if you are laid from your employer. COBRA may be too expensive so other options may need to be researched. The MNSure website offers valuable information regarding health insurance and potential options. Another option would be to look at Medical Assistance/ MA. The Minnesota Department of Human Services website has more information.
Can I still get medical treatment for my work injury?
Yes, you can. Currently, most medical facilities are limiting office visits and participating in telemedicine with their workers’ compensation patients. These visits are being handled by phone or video conference. Workers’ compensation insurers should authorize these types of visits. If not, speak with an attorney right away. In other cases, some medical providers are still providing services as usual. You will want to make sure you take the necessary precautions to protect yourself from COVID-19. You should reach out to your provider to see what type of services are being offered at this time.
Regardless of how you choose to be seen, you will want to continue to stay in touch with your provider to maintain restrictions, if necessary, and for them to document your condition and progress. We will get through COVID-19, and when we do, it is important that your condition be documented.
I don’t want to leave my house due to COVID-19, how do I get my medication for my work injury?
Your medications can be delivered to you. Talk to your attorney or claims representative about having your prescriptions mailed. Many insurance companies have vendors they work with that can mail you your medications. Otherwise, there are companies like Injured Workers’ Pharmacy that will do all the leg work and contact your insurance company before mailing out prescriptions.
Can Covid-19 be a work-related injury under Minnesota Workers’ Compensation?
Yes, it can. Doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, grocery workers, first responders, police officers – those on the frontlines, are more likely to get the virus from work related exposure than from any other source. In many settings, these workers are under protected, overworked and more vulnerable to infection. In these settings, if COVID-19 is contracted, it could be the responsibility of workers’ compensation to pay benefits.
Under Minnesota workers’ compensation law, the contraction of COVID-19 would fall under an “occupational disease.” Currently, as the law is written, the injured workers would need to show an “incident of an occupational disease” or the exposure to COVID-19 was “peculiar to the occupation” making the virus and occupational disease a work hazard. The injured worker would need to establish a direct or proximate causal connection to work and the virus.
It is unclear if the legislature will make amendments to the workers’ compensation act to include a “presumption” of work relatedness for those on the front lines. Considering we already have presumption language for heart attacks and PTSD for firefighters, police officers and first responders, I assume that we will at some point have it for COVID-19. Until then, potential COVID-19 exposure and injury would be analyzed as an occupational disease.
Call us today for a free consultation at (763) 421-8226 or text us at (763) 401-7314 if you have been injured or have questions about the impact of COVID-19 on your workers’ compensation case.