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Increased Risk of Brain Injuries from COVID-19

Our world has been completely changed by the outbreak of COVID-19. Since the World Health Organization first declared the novel coronavirus to be a pandemic, huge swaths of the global population have been infected, hospitalized, and killed by the highly contagious virus. In Canada, nearly two-thirds of the total population have been infected with COVID-19 at least once and more than 45,000 of our friends, family members, and fellow citizens have lost their lives as a result of their infection.

We have felt the impacts of this pandemic in all facets of our daily lives. The everyday activities that were once entirely routine, such as going to work or sending our kids to school, are now tinged with uncertainty and trepidation. Socially, an increase in neuroticism and vulnerability to stress have led to radical transformations in deep-rooted personality traits. Businesses have been forced to shutter permanently. Professionals who have worked in the same field for decades have changed occupations. And many people have developed lingering symptoms of post-COVID-19 condition (or, “long-COVID”). According to a recent peer-reviewed study, between 30-40% of people who have been infected with cases of COVID-19 that did not require hospitalization experience a range of diverse, long-lasting symptoms that negatively impact their day-to-day lives.

Although we are still only beginning to understand the long-term effects of COVID-19, there is evidence to suggest that both adults and children who only experienced mild or even asymptomatic infections could develop post-COVID-19 condition. Many of these people develop a range of debilitating symptoms that persist for more than twelve weeks following their initial infection.

The most typical symptoms of long-COVID include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent coughing
  • Other respiratory symptoms that worsen with over-exertion
  • Fatigue
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Fever
  • And others

However, in addition to these symptoms, many people suffering from long-COVID might be at risk of sustaining substantial brain injuries as well. A recent study has revealed that people who have been infected with COVID-19 face a greater risk of developing long-term neurological issues than those who have not contracted the illness.

How COVID-19 Impacts the Brain and Central Nervous System

Researchers have linked more than 40 million cases of newly developed neurological disorders to COVID-19. The findings released in this study on the long-term neurologic outcomes of COVID-19 could have serious implications for the multitudes of people who have been infected with the virus since the pandemic’s initial outbreak.

This study’s lead researcher reports seeing serious brain problems in previously healthy patients, including those who only experienced mild or asymptomatic symptoms when initially infected with COVID-19. Within a year of being infected, 7 out of 100 people who have survived COVID-19 could develop long-lasting neurological disorders. The neurologic conditions linked to infection with COVID-19 are varied and range in severity. They could include:

  • Brain fog
  • Memory impairments
  • Strokes
  • Seizures
  • Epilepsy
  • Migraines
  • Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • And other neurologic condition

These conditions are not insignificant. The real-world effects of these brain injuries could have substantial impacts on a person’s cognitive functions, social behaviour, interpersonal relationships, and abilities to perform the duties of their jobs.

The scope of these findings is especially worrisome. The millions of Canadians who have been infected with COVID-19 are 7% more likely to develop related neurological disorders than those who have not contracted the illness.

COVID-19 is associated with higher risks of cognitive impairments, strokes, and other neurologic outcomes that could have serious impacts on a patient’s lifespan, quality of life, and livelihood. As a result of the long-term brain injuries they might develop in the post-acute stages of infection, COVID-19 survivors may no longer be able to carry out the tasks associated with their occupation. In these scenarios, they may find themselves struggling to shoulder the resulting economic burdens, making drastic lifestyle changes, and fighting to make ends meet.

Are Long-COVID Patients Eligible for Disability Benefits?

Many of the adverse neurologic outcomes related to COVID-19 could make it impossible for the people suffering from long-term symptoms to continue working in their current occupational fields. Depending on the severity of the conditions they have developed and their ability to mitigate their symptoms, patients who have sustained brain injuries as a result of their long-COVID infection might feel helpless to take control of their lives. Unable to continue working the way they were able to before becoming infected, long-COVID patients may worry about continuing to support themselves and their families.

Provided they have adequate insurance coverage through their employer’s group insurance plan or a privately held policy, long-COVID patients whose symptoms prevent them from performing their jobs might be entitled to long-term disability (LTD) benefits. If the insurance company decides to award LTD benefits to an eligible applicant, they might be able to collect between 60-70% of their regular earnings in monthly installments.

In order to qualify for LTD benefits, claimants must have exhausted all other benefits that are available to them, including short-term disability and Employment Insurance (EI). Claimants are required to submit proof that:

  • They have been diagnosed with a disabling medical condition
  • They have been receiving ongoing treatment for this condition
  • The condition that they have developed prevents them from carrying out the duties associated with their jobs
  • Their condition will require continued medical treatment in the future

Any number of the neurologic outcomes developed in relation to a COVID-19 infection might qualify an adequately covered insurance policyholder to receive LTD benefits if their condition substantially impairs their abilities to continue working in their chosen occupation. For example, according to the recent study on the long-term risks of brain injuries resulting from COVID-19, researchers reported that people who have been infected with the novel coronavirus were 80% more likely to have seizures than those who have not contracted the virus. If a person develops epilepsy post-infection and cannot control the frequency and intensity of their seizures, the stress of their working conditions could exacerbate their condition. If their work requires the operation of heavy machinery, dangerous power tools, or other materials that could potentially harm themselves or others, their newly developed medical condition might make it impossible for them to continue safely performing their job’s duties. In those types of situations, their insurer might determine that they are entitled to receive disability benefits.

Unfortunately, even after submitting thorough evidence proving that a medical condition developed in relation to long-COVID makes it impossible to continue working in one’s field, an insurance company might decide to deny an applicant’s claim for LTD benefits and withhold the benefits to which they should be entitled.

If you are no longer able to work because of a newly developed, disabling medical condition and your claim for LTD benefits has been denied, consider scheduling a free initial consultation with Preszler Injury Lawyers to learn about legal options that might be open to you. Contact us online or call 1-800-JUSTICE to speak with our long-term disability lawyers serving all of Ontario.

Contact Our Ontario Long-Term Disability Lawyers to Discuss Your Case

It will take time to realize and appreciate the far-reaching impacts of COVID-19. While we continue to rebuild our lives and return to a “normal” way of life, new and unexpected challenges will continue to arise. And Preszler Injury Lawyers will continue to fight on behalf of people who receive unfair or prejudicial treatment from their insurance providers.

If you can no longer work because of a medical condition you developed after a COVID-19 infection and require assistance with your claim for LTD benefits, do not hesitate to contact our long-term disability lawyers serving Ontario. Call 1-800-JUSTICE today and receive a free initial consultation on your case.

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