Coronavirus and Indiana Worker’s Compensation

In just the last few days and weeks, the rise of the Coronavirus has wreaked havoc on not just the United States, but also the world. Countless lives have been lost. The United States economy has virtually shut down. Restaurants are closed except for carry-out or delivery. Movie theaters, gyms, you name it. There isn’t one aspect of our daily lives that isn’t being impacted by the spread of the Coronavirus – and that’s even if you haven’t been infected!

Thousands of Indiana workers already have been and will be affected economically, even if they never actually contract Coronavirus. Hours may be reduced and layoffs are happening. Parents that still have a job must find a way to care for young children since school has been cancelled. As of today, it looks like things will get worse before they get better.

The good news is that with a shift in our daily lives, other employment opportunities are popping up. Delivery drivers and grocery store workers are in high demand. The government is working to relax the qualifications for unemployment. So please, if you are a healthy worker reading this post, apply for unemployment because there are services available which will help you find work.

But how will the Coronavirus impact injured Indiana workers? That’s difficult to predict, but there are a few things worth noting.

First, if you sustain an on-the-job injury that’s covered under the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Act, your employer, through the worker’s compensation insurance company, MUST pay for your medical care, regardless of what your employment status may be at any point after you get hurt.
Second, if you have already sustained an injury while on the job, your worker’s compensation doctor has already taken you off work, and the worker’s compensation insurance company has already started to pay worker’s compensation payments (aka Temporary Total Disability or TTD), those payments should not be affected even if your employer lays you off due to the Coronavirus. If the worker’s compensation attorney stops paying benefits soon after you receive this letter, you must speak with a qualified Evansville, Indiana worker’s compensation attorney, like Charles Hewins of Hewins Law Firm, immediately. There are certain rights you have when benefits are terminated that only last for a few days.

Things get trickier if you’re working light duty based on doctor’s restrictions (for instance, no lifting over 20 lbs) when you get laid off. In this scenario, the injured worker should start receiving TTD because the work restrictions will make it difficult to find a new job. However, worker’s compensation insurance companies may try to avoid paying worker’s comp benefits in this scenario. There is an often-invoked law in the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Act that says an employer doesn’t have to pay TTD to Indiana workers if they are “unable or unavailable to work for reasons unrelated to the compensable injury.” Employers and worker’s comp insurance companies frequently invoke this part of the law to refuse to pay worker’s compensation TTD benefits to employees who get fired or laid off while working on restrictions. They argue that the employee isn’t working because of the layoff, not because of the injury. The onset of the Coronavirus may encourage them to do this to workers they lay off because of Coronavirus. If this happens to you or someone you know, they may have done this in violation of the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Act. Contact Charles Hewins of Hewins Law Firm right away to determine if the worker’s compensation insurance company owes you unpaid worker’s compensation benefits.