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Workers' Compensation

California: New Data Show COVID-19 Accounts for 1 in 9 California Workers’ Comp Claims in 2020

Oakland, CA – The California workers’ compensation COVID-19 claim count continued to grow in August, albeit at a much slower rate than in July, with new data showing that as of September 21, the state had recorded 5,130 COVID-19 claims with August injury dates, bringing the total for the year to 41,861 claims, or 11.2% of all California job injury claims reported for accident year (AY) 2020. Those claims included 224 death claims, up from 160 reported as of August 10.

The latest claim count shows that the number of COVID-19 claims reported to the Division of Workers’ Compensation doubled from May to June, then increased another 16% in July. The numbers reported for August, however, fell sharply, even after accounting for the lag in the reporting of COVID-19 claims. Using claim development factors based on historical claim development from 2019 and the more unstable development pattern noted for COVID-19 claims this year, the California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI) projects there could ultimately be 8,208 COVID-19 claims with August injury dates. Given that the latest tally suggests COVID-19 claim volume may have peaked in July – at least for the time being – CWCI now projects 48,086 COVID-19 claims with January through August injury dates, which is less than the January through July projection from last month. The distribution by industry shows health care workers continue to account for the largest share of California’s COVID-19 claims, filing 38.1% of the claims recorded for the first 8 months of this year, followed by public safety/government workers who accounted for 15.8%. Rounding out the top 5 industries based on COVID-19 claim volume were retail trade (7.6%), manufacturing (7.6%), and transportation (5.0%). In addition, the percentage of denied COVID-19 claims declined to 28.6% from CWCI’s May report of 35.5%

The updated data has been released in the latest iteration of CWCI’s COVID-19 and Non-COVID-19 Interactive Claim Application, an online data tool that integrates data from CWCI, the Division of Workers’ Compensation, and the Bureau of Labor and Statistics to provide detailed information on California workers’ comp claims from comparable periods of 2019 and 2020. The new version features data on 839,184 claims from the first 8 months of AY 2019 and AY 2020, including all 41,861 COVID-19 claims reported for AY 2020. As of September 21, the DWC had recorded 373,587 workers’ compensation claims with January through August injury dates, which even with the COVID-19 claims, was down 19.6% from the corresponding period of 2019, or 11 percent after factoring in the projected claim development. That decline reflects both the sharp drop in employment, the high number of workers now working from home, and the pandemic-driven slowdown in economic activity in the state. CWCI will continue to update the application and expand its features as more data on claim type and systemwide costs become available. In the meantime, the application is available to the public at www.cwci.org