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Beginning to Understand the Long-Term Effects of COVID-19

For more than a year, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the way people all over the world live their lives. Although the current rollout of vaccines gives us all a great cause for optimism, returning to normal life after the pandemic will likely be challenging for many people. The global outbreak of this potentially deadly virus has impacted almost every aspect of society. For those who have lost loved ones over the last year, the road forward will be punctuated by grief. And for those who have overcome the illness, the still-unknown long-term effects of infection may be causes for major concern.

Typically, the symptoms associated with COVID-19 persist for a two-week period, during which the patient is highly contagious. In most cases, symptoms typically subside within this fourteen day period. However, based on data collected from countries around the world, researchers estimate that anywhere 10-30% of patients infected with COVID-19 will develop lingering symptoms associated with the virus.

These “long-haul” symptoms can last for weeks and even months. Although effects of the illness typically persist in patients who suffered from severe cases, recent research has revealed that 1 in 3 patients infected with mild COVID-19 will continue to experience symptoms for more than six weeks.

Even young patients who had no major health concerns before contracting the virus can experience persistent, life-altering medical conditions for months after their initial recovery. Referred to as “long COVID-19” or “post-acute COVID-19 syndrome,” symptoms of this condition can cause damage to a patient’s lungs, heart, and brain. This syndrome may lead to blood clots or blood vessel problems, which could cause strokes or heart attacks. Long COVID-19 could also result in patients experiencing extreme changes in mood and energy levels.

Frighteningly, we are only beginning to understand what the long-term repercussions of COVID-19 infections may be. Ongoing research is required to determine how the virus may be able to continue affecting an infected patient’s body, even after they have recovered from their original symptoms.

While our understanding of the virus’s impact on the human body deepens with each passing day, so-called “long-haulers” (patients who continue to experience lingering symptoms of COVID-19) may be struggling to find the support they need to overcome this challenge. According to some experts, while provincial and federal responses to the crisis have prioritized the urgent threats of acute COVID-19, little has been done to address the growing concern of long-haulers whose lives may be impacted by the virus for even more time to come.

If you have been infected with COVID-19 and continue to experience persistent symptoms that make it impossible for you to perform the duties of your job, depending on your level of insurance coverage, you may be eligible to recover long-term disability (LTD) benefits. If you have questions about your insurance policy and whether your lingering symptoms entitle you to collect LTD benefits, an Ontario long-term disabilities lawyer may be able to offer you useful assistance and advice.

Lingering Symptoms of COVID-19

The symptoms of post-acute COVID-19 syndrome can be crippling. More than a year after the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in Canada, some patients who were infected during the earliest days of the pandemic have continued to experience these persistent, debilitating medical conditions that significantly impact their physical comfort, mental health, and overall quality of life.

According to a study conducted by researchers at King’s College, women are twice as likely to develop long-term symptoms than men. As of the time their research was released, the median age of long-hauler patients was forty-five years old.

The symptoms of long COVID-19 vary from case to case. However, the most frequently reported long-term effects experienced by long-haulers include breathlessness, heart palpitations, lingering coughs, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and brain fog. Other symptoms that may linger over time include:

  • Muscle and joint pains
  • Chest pains
  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Dizziness when sitting down or standing up
  • Increased heart rate
  • Difficulty remembering or concentrating
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Depression and anxiety
  • And possibly more

Many long-haulers report a worsening of symptoms after even light exercise. Some young, athletic people who were infected with COVID-19 now have difficulty climbing stairs, walking short distances, changing positions from sitting to standing, or moving without the use of a mobility aid. Otherwise healthy individuals in the prime of their lives now require the assistance of a walker to perform routine tasks like grocery shopping, and need to stop and rest several times throughout their shopping trip.

Post-acute COVID-19 syndrome can cause damage to patients’ internal organs, including their lungs, heart, and brain. Long-haulers may develop the following serious medical conditions:

  • Fibrosis (lung scarring)
  • Damaged alveoli in lungs
  • Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart)
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Strokes and seizures
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome (temporary paralysis)
  • Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS)
  • Blood clots
  • Blood vessel problems
  • Long-lasting damage to kidney and liver
  • Increased risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
  • And possibly more

Are Long-Haulers Eligible for LTD Benefits?

People suffering from long COVID-19 face a great deal of uncertainty. So much is unknown about this new virus and its possible long-term effects that long-haulers cannot even be certain about prognoses they may have received. While physical therapies, medication, and other medical treatments may help long-haulers improve their lingering symptoms, no one can be sure how long it will take for them to fully recover from their illness.

If you were infected with COVID-19 and continue to experience symptoms of post-acute COVID-19 syndrome, returning to the workplace may seem like an impossible task. If your lingering symptoms prevent you from performing the duties of your job, you may be able to recover LTD benefits, provided you have the appropriate level of insurance coverage. LTD plans generally provide disabled workers with between 60-70% of their normal wages if their medical conditions prevent them from performing their job.

Many people qualify for LTD coverage through their employer’s group insurance plan, or through a privately held insurance policy that they pay into individually. If you are unsure whether your symptoms of long COVID-19 qualify you to collect LTD benefits, consider consulting with a long-term disabilities lawyer before preparing your application. A lawyer may be able to review your insurance policy and advise you of any limitations to which you may be subjected.

Your application for LTD benefits should include evidence proving the severity of your symptoms and their impact on your ability to perform your job. You should also include evidence proving that you have been receiving ongoing treatment for your long COVID-19 symptoms. It is important to compile as much medical proof of your condition as possible, including:

  • Medical records
  • Results of medical examinations
  • Statements from your attending physicians
  • Personal statements about your experience with lingering COVID-19 symptoms
  • Witness statements from relatives, co-workers, healthcare providers, and friends describing your struggle with persistent symptoms of long COVID-19
  • A detailed description of your job duties
  • A statement from your plan sponsor (i.e. your employer)
  • Other documentation proving that your symptoms prevent you from performing the duties of your job

How a Lawyer May Be Able to Help if Your Claim for LTD Benefits Was Denied

It is still too early to know for certain how insurance providers will react to the influx of LTD benefits claims submitted by long-haulers. However, in general, more than half the insurance claims for LTD benefits in Canada are not approved. This determination is based on the fact that approximately 60% of claims for Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability benefits are denied.

Receiving a denial for LTD benefits can be worse than frustrating. When people who, through no fault of their own, become chronically ill with a new, potentially deadly virus and submit ample medical evidence proving the severity of their ongoing symptoms along with their legitimate claims for disability benefits, they expect their insurer to provide the support to which they are entitled. A denied claim for LTD benefits can be devastating for someone suffering long COVID-19 symptoms. A disputed insurance claim could seriously impact the mental, emotional, and financial well-being of seriously ill long-haulers.

If your claim for LTD benefits was denied even though your condition should entitle you to compensation, an Ontario lawyer may be able to fight the insurance company’s decision by filing a lawsuit against them. A successful claim may allow for the recovery of various types of damages, including:

  • Previously denied benefits payments
  • Legal fees
  • Damages for mental stress experienced
  • Punitive damages
  • And possibly more

Contact Preszler Injury Lawyers Today

If post-acute COVID-19 syndrome prevents you from earning a living, depending on your insurance coverage, you may qualify for LTD benefits. If your claim for LTD benefits has been unfairly denied, a long-term disability lawyer may be able to challenge the insurance company’s decision on your behalf.

To discuss the details of your claim in a free, initial consultation, contact Preszler Injury Lawyers online today or call us at 1-800-JUSTICE.

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