Overall claim severity and frequency decreased in 2020, according to a National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) report.
While COVID-19 caused turmoil around the world, its effects on workers compensation claims were relatively minor in 2020, according to a report released last week by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI).
Overall claim frequency, including COVID-19-related claims, decreased 0.1% from 2019 in the 38 states for which NCCI serves as a research and rating organization. When COVID-19-related claims are excluded from 2020 numbers, claims frequency dropped almost 7%, according to the report.
However, an increase in claim frequency was notable in the goods and services industry, which includes hospital workers, as well as the miscellaneous category, which includes police officers.
Further, after four years of increases, overall claims severity, including COVID-19 claims, declined in 2020. The decrease was contributed to by a higher frequency of small, less costly claims along with a higher share of indemnity-only claims, according to the report.
Lost time claim severity dropped by more than 6% with about a quarter of all claims in 2020 costing less than $5,000 each. While there was an increase in the number of such claims, almost 90% of COVID-19-related workers comp claims were for that amount.
“During 2020, the frequency of claims in this size category increased by 21%— contributing to this year's observed decline in average claim severity," according to NCCI actuaries Carolyn Wise and Kevin Fernes.
Nationally, claims arising from motor vehicle accidents also declined by 14.5% as more people worked from home and traveled less during the shutdown, according to the report. But while office and clerical workers posted the largest decline in claims, essential workers, including garbage collectors, mail deliverers and fast-food employees saw an increase in claims.
Further, while claim frequency decreased for most parts of the body, those for the chest and trunk areas impacted by COVID-19, showed increases. However, when excluding the reported COVID-19-related claims, the change in claim frequency in 2020 for those parts of the body decreased—indicating that COVID-19 impacted these results.
COVID-19 played a significant role in the improvement in workers comp results in 2020, according to the report. Preliminary 2021 results show a return to historical levels.
Olivia Overman is IA content editor.