Workers’ Compensation Cases May Be Delayed During COVID-19
On July 10, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced that workers’ compensation courts were closed to the public until further notice due to COVID-19. While the courts are still operating remotely, efficiency has slowed due to difficulties. Here are some reasons why the New Jersey workers’ compensation system is backed up because of the coronavirus.
Remote Workers Can Slow Claims
Workers’ compensation is just like any other administrative and judicial process insofar as there is a claim that needs to be evaluated. This requires people to review paperwork and medical evidence in order to establish the claimant’s right to workers’ compensation benefits. Those same people are often working remotely without full and speedy access to the documents that they need to assess the claim.
Practically every government function and agency right now is operating with delays. Employees are doing the best that they can, but circumstances are slowing them down. While the government is able to work right now, things are being done at a slower pace due to the logistical challenges of COVID-19. Thus, it would take longer to receive an answer after a filing.
COVID-19 May Mean More Claims
Another factor that is causing delays in the workers’ compensation system is the surge of claims that have been filed by people who represent that they contracted COVID-19 while on the job. These are often difficult claims for the government to assess because they need to ascertain whether the claimant got COVID-19 at work. These can be time-intensive claims due to the need to establish certain key facts. This could back up the system for all claimants, including those whose claims are not related at all to COVID-19. In general, as a workers’ comp lawyer would advise, a higher amount of claims means that those that are filed are slower to process.
On the flip side, there have been fewer people working in general as businesses have shuttered and the poor economy has caused scores of layoffs. This means that there may be fewer workers’ compensation claims from other types of injuries because there are fewer people working.
Cases Now Are Higher Dollar Value
Further, the claims that are filed may be higher-value claims due to the increase in medical treatment necessary during this time. Moreover, claimants may be unable to work for longer. Employers have reported that workplace absence as a result of injury or illness has increased in duration since the start of the pandemic. More complex claims may also back up the workers’ compensation system.
In addition, it is harder for those who have filed for workers’ compensation to get hearings when they are having difficulty getting their claim approved. There are remote hearings available, but due to the backlog, it is not always easy to get a prompt hearing. If the claim is not approved after it is filed, it can take some additional time for the claim to make its way through the process.
You Will Still Get Paid Eventually
As a claimant, a workers’ compensation system with a backlog does not mean that you will not receive your money. If your claim has merit, it will be approved eventually when it is considered. Your lost wages will also be approved retroactively, meaning that you will not lose any money because of the delay. However, the backlog will make it tougher for you and your family to get by until the claim is approved. You may also have medical bills that must be paid and are waiting on the claim to pay out your costs.
In summary, there is a stretched administrative workforce dealing with more complex workers’ compensation claims under difficult circumstances. There are also higher financial stakes for businesses, giving them more of an incentive to object to the filing. This can further slow down claims.
To learn more about how filing claims during COVID-19 has been affected, contact a workers comp lawyer at the Vorhees Law Office, LLC, in Somerville, NJ, by calling (908) 200-2297 today.