As of April 30, 2020, Arkansas has not yet enacted a law or regulation creating a presumption of work-relatedness for the diagnosis of COVID-21. However, on April 21, 2020, Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson did issue Executive Order 20-22 that eliminates a pre-existing restriction that previously barred first responders and “front-line healthcare workers” to seek workers’ compensation for COVID-19 exposure in the line of duty, while working outside healthcare enumerated facilities. The order also expands the definition of first responder to encompass firefighters, law enforcement personnel, and any other personnel determined by the Arkansas Workers Compensation Commission to be eligible. Although this order permits evidence to be offered in support of such claims, claimants expressly remain obligated demonstrate a causal connection between their diagnoses and exposure as a result of their employment or occupation.
As of April 30, 2020,
does not yet have a law creating a presumption of work-relatedness for the diagnosis of COVID-19. However, national trends suggest that such legislation may only be a matter of time.
This order is a part of a rapidly expanding national trend.
Many states across the country have either already passed or are already considering laws creating sweeping evidentiary presumptions for COVID-19 workers’ compensation coverage. These laws present both practical and legal problems for employers and workers’ compensation insurance carriers and may also ultimately frustrate their intended beneficiaries, front-line workers suffering from COVID-19. For workers, the rush to legislate has resulted in bills that are overbroad, covering employees with no special risk of exposure such as police dispatchers and hospital administrators, and under broad, often leaving out other jobs with high exposure such as bus drivers and store clerks. For employers and insurers, these laws radically shift the burden of proof on existing policies and may create enormous liabilities. Challenges to these laws will need to be resolved by the courts - these bills may not withstand constitutional challenges based on retroactivity, the takings clause, the contracts clause, and due process.
Chartwell Law represents the interests of insurers and employers, as such, we continue to continue to monitor the legal landscape. If you have any questions about issues associated with COVID-19, our attorneys are available to help. Please contact your Chartwell Law attorney or email us at Covid19WC@chartwelllaw.com.