The worst days of the Covid-19 pandemic are hopefully behind us. However, during that time, many businesses, organizations, and government agencies were forced to make a range of unanticipated adaptations. These adaptations often involved minimizing face-to-face contact whenever possible.
For example, in California, the Division of Workers’ Compensation, part of the Department of Industrial Relations, stopped accepting in-person documents from workers. After years of workers throughout the state expressing a desire for “in-person walkthroughs” to resume, recently, the DWC announced it would begin accepting documents in-person once again. With the exception of the DWC office in Eureka, all California DWC offices will start accepting in-person submissions of claims and related documents starting September 6, 2022.
It’s easy to understand why the DWC halted in-person services and stopped accepting in-person documents during the pandemic. Again, in general, agencies and companies across the world were taking various steps to ensure operations could continue without in-person contact among employees, customers, etc.
The DWC had a particularly strong reason for switching to a virtual model. In California, workers have the option of filing workers’ compensation claims if they believe they contracted Covid-19 in the workplace.
Thus, if the DWC was to accept documents from sick workers in-person, there was the distinct possibility that many of the workers submitting documents would be infected with Covid-19. Allowing them to submit documents in an office would have posed an unreasonable risk not only to DWC employees but to anyone else visiting the office, as well as to the families of those who could have contracted the virus in that setting. Although this has never been cited as an official reason for the DWC’s policy of not accepting in-person documents, many have agreed this was likely a significant factor.
Rates of Covid-19 infections have been steadily dropping throughout California. Although new variants have prolonged the pandemic, many departments and agencies have begun to return to in-person services.
The DWC is among them. This is good news for workers who prefer to submit documents at an office. Although being able to submit workers’ compensation documents virtually may be convenient, it isn’t necessarily ideal for workers who might have questions they wish to ask when submitting documents.
That said, although the option to submit documents at a DWC office has returned, workers should still consider whether the benefits justify the risks. If a worker is already struggling with an illness or injury, they might decide it’s still best to submit workers’ comp documents online instead of visiting a physical office and potentially exposing themselves to pathogens or other hazards which would further jeopardize their health.
Additionally, if a worker has a question about their claim, instead of discussing it with a DWC employee, often, they would likely be better off coordinating with an attorney. A lawyer can answer any questions they may have while also protecting their rights.
Do you plan on filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits in California? If so, our Encino workers’ compensation attorneys at the Law Offices of Kropach & Kropach can help you pursue what you may deserve. Learn more by contacting us online or calling us at 818-609-7005.