Calif. Worker’s Comp Law Has PI’s Trying to Prove COVID Not From Work

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus is making work for at least one private investigator in California now that the state has declared COVID-19 as an “injury” under its workers compensation law if a person contracts the disease within 14 days of an “outbreak” at work.

Sacramento PI Chris Champlin has been hired by companies to find evidence that someone did not contract the virus at work, since businesses are assumed to be the infection source unless they can prove otherwise.

“There is a lot of information out there that people love to put on social media,” Champlin told local CBS affiliate KOVR. “Protests, the large gatherings, if you were there or a friend of a friend was there, we can identify that on social media.”

California considers an “outbreak” as four employees testing positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus for a business with 100 employees or fewer or 4% of all employees at one that has more than 100 employees.

And besides workplaces, grocery stores to restaurants can be a source of exposure to the novel coronavirus.

Champlin says he investigates everyone in the claimant’s household and social circle. He looks for any behavior that might have exposed the person or a close contract to the virus.

Besides publicly available records, Champlin uses social media, since people love to show off where they’ve been.

“More people are dining out, they’re taking pictures or checking in at a restaurant,” Champlin said.

The dining out evidence is especially useful, since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that adults who have a positive test are twice as likely to have said they’ve eaten at a restaurant.

Workers compensation claims can be costly for small business, Champlin said.

But the issue goes beyond the immediate. Since it’s unclear of the long-term health consequences of COVID-19, Champlin is keeping his information on file in case of future claims.

“Are they a smoker? Do they have prior respiratory conditions?” Champlain said. “You’re on the hook for that under these new California guidelines for long-term care or future medical benefits. So, if we can preserve information right now, that might help in the future. That’s what’s critical.”

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