Many claims for COVID-19 are disputed by the employer and/or insurance company. The major issue disputed involves whether the COVID-19 illness occurred out of or in the course of employment. They rely on the fact that COVID-19 is common in the general public and that it is nearly impossible to identify where the virus is contracted.
To address these claims, the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) implemented a prevalence standard, which means that if an injured worker can show that there was a high risk of COVID-19 in the workplace, the case can be established for a work-related exposure.
In a recent decision, a panel at the WCB upheld a COVID-19 claim for an Uber driver, citing the prevalence standard. The Panel clearly stated that the consideration of prevalence in COVID-19 cases is a legal determination rather than a scientific determination. This means that even if a worker cannot prove exactly where the COVID-19 illness was contracted, a finding that the illness is work related is still possible.
One of the major factors in proving prevalence is to provide evidence of the nature and extent of work activities, which includes significant contact with the general public and/or co-workers. This means that a claimant does not have to prove with certainty that the COVID-19 was contracted at work, only that the exposure at work created such a level of elevated risk that it represents an extraordinary event. In the case of the Uber driver, it was shown that he worked 40-60 hours per week as a driver and had multiple passengers in his vehicle, with some exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.