In the July 2021 issue of the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Magazine, Jason Hatfield published a piece discussing some of the unanticipated effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state’s workers’ compensation system.
Hatfield begins by discussing some of the more commonly known challenges presented by the pandemic. For example, while some employers had to reduce hours, cut staff or ask their employees to work remotely, essential businesses such as grocery and retail stores experienced a spike in demand that required hiring additional workers or increasing hours for their current workforce. Because the number of essential businesses was limited, and many of those required to work could do so remotely, this led to a decrease in the number of workers’ compensation claims filed during the pandemic.
Then, Hatfield goes on to discuss the unintended impact that telemedicine had on the workers’ compensation system. “Notably, COVID-19 has sparked a revolution in telemedicine.” He explains, “[t]elemedicine has allowed companies to quickly treat their injured workers while minimizing the spread of the virus. Telemedicine could play a future role in managing workers’ compensation claims due to the reductions in treatment times and overall cost of care. For instance, mileage reimbursements and missed time from work could be significantly reduced. However, even though there are cost savings in some areas, there is a downside to telemedicine.”
Hatfield aptly points out that there is a downside to telehealth visits, “[t]elemedicine does not allow a medical provider to perform a complete and thorough physical exam, and this could lead to improper diagnoses and potential delays in proper medical treatment.” Most doctors agree that a physical exam is necessary to diagnose most work injuries properly. For example, a thorough physical exam allows doctors to better identify and evaluate muscle spasms, range of motion and reflexes.
The Financial Pressures Facing Injured Workers
The COVID-19 pandemic affected almost every American family in a variety of ways. For many families, the stay-at-home orders and other restrictions resulted in lay-offs and reduced hours, which led to financial hardship. For example, injured workers receive only two-thirds of their pay while recovering from a workplace injury and, many of these workers live with a spouse who was laid off. At the same time, the shifting needs of local businesses have made it harder for employers to come up with light-duty work. Thus, even those injured workers who could otherwise have returned to work in some capacity continued to miss work.
Attorney Hatfield points out that the result is that “[m]any injured workers in Arkansas are becoming desperate — and more willing to settle with insurance companies, foregoing needed medical treatment to stay afloat.” However, he also notes that the continued use of technology, combined with in-person doctor’s visits, will hopefully enable lawyers, doctors, employers and insurance companies to better serve injured workers in the future.
Are You Facing the Challenges of Bringing a Workers’ Comp Claim During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of our day-to-day lives, and the workers’ compensation system is no exception. The Arkansas workers’ compensation system is currently functional, and injured workers get approved for benefits every day. At the Law Office of Jason M. Hatfield, P.A., our Arkansas workers’ compensation lawyers represent clients across Northwest Arkansas. We skillfully handle all types of personal injury and workers’ compensation claims on behalf of injured workers and their families, helping them obtain the compensation they need to continue with their lives after an accident. To learn more about how we can help you pursue workers’ compensation benefits, give the Law Office of Jason M. Hatfield, P.A. a call at 479-361-3575. You can also connect with our Arkansas workers’ compensation lawyers through our online form.