Learn what’s being done about workers’ compensation cases amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Plus, get workers’ comp resources during this dire time of need.

The work you do is essential.

As a frontline employee, society has forced you to operate in a contagious environment. Are you eligible for workers’ compensation if you get sick?

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed stark truths about what type of work our nation needs to function. But will the government compensate our essential employees who fall ill?

Learn what’s being done about workers’ compensation cases amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Plus, get workers’ comp resources during this dire time of need.

The Case for COVID-19 Claims

We generally think of workers’ compensation claims as having to do with injuries.

OSHA describes the “fatal four” of severe occupational injuries being:

  • Electrocution Accidents
  • Struck By Objects
  • Caught Between Objects
  • Falls

Repetitive stress injuries and psychological injuries are also fair game when it comes to workers’ comp claims.

A construction worker injures a disc in his spine, a food service worker slips and falls, a secretary gets carpal tunnel syndrome from typing too much, a firefighter needs treatment for PTSD.

None of these include anything like COVID-19. But there is one other category that may serve workers during this unprecedented time of employment risk.

Occupational disease

According to the law, a worker may qualify for compensation if they acquire a disease or disorder based on specific workplace risks. Historically, these types of conditions have included illnesses like cancer, skin diseases, or respiratory diseases.

For example, someone works near known carcinogens as part of their regular job duties, then gets a cancer diagnosis after several years. That person’s illness may qualify as an occupational disease.

So what about the Coronavirus?

Since each state determines its own workers’ compensation laws, state leaders have been scrambling to adjust to the new reality. The waters are murky at best when it comes to workers’ comp law. Some jobs will have more grounds for occupational disease claims than others.

Federal Employees and Longshore Workers

So far, the most guaranteed coverage goes to federal employees and longshore workers. According to the Department of Labor, an employee must be working in a high-risk environment, exposed to the public and frontline medical personnel.

Nevertheless, in these instances, COVID-19 cases are explicitly covered.

Frontline Medical Workers

For a successful COVID-19 related workers’ comp case, an employee must prove that they contracted the virus while on the job. It’s not uncommon for workers to be exposed to illness regularly. Known risks are common for some types of work.

Common occupational diseases, like respiratory infections and skin diseases, involve toxic chemical exposure. Each state has a list of conditions that qualify as occupational diseases. None of them likely include COVID-19.

For frontline nurses, doctors, and paramedics treating Coronavirus patients directly, exposure to the virus has become a daily reality.

Some states have acknowledged this risk, and have extended workers’ comp to include COVID-19 infections of healthcare workers. Washington was one of the first to make this explicit as of March, and other states have followed suit.

Despite the risk healthcare workers face, many states do not guarantee coverage for their frontline medical staff. With the novel coronavirus existing in such everyday spaces, most states have yet to define it as an occupational disease.

Some healthcare workers may still find themselves out of luck. For example, a nurse working in a state with relatively few outbreaks might not be able to qualify.

If you are a health care worker on the front lines of the coronavirus, and you fell ill with the virus because of this exposure, you may qualify for workers’ comp.

Contact us as soon as it’s safe to do so, and we can discuss your right to compensation. The laws are constantly changing, and we can get you the information you need to proceed with a claim.

Workers’ Compensation Cases for Everyone Else

The situations above reflect those who have the best chances of a COVID-19-related workers’ comp case. But what about everyone else?

Like you, there are millions out there whose labor is essential, and many come in contact with the public every day. Some jobs may even require their employees to contact known coronavirus populations regularly.

Whether you are a grocery store clerk, postal or UPS worker, sanitation worker, or a non-medical employee at a health clinic, you may still find yourself at a high risk of exposure.

One of the biggest obstacles is that the virus exists everywhere. Someone may face exposure at work, but in reality, the risk is all around.

So unlike, for example, the chemical exposure from working an industrial job, there is no way to pinpoint exactly where one might have caught COVID-19.

Since it is a biological virus that occurs in nature, COVID-19 is considered a “disease of ordinary life,” not an occupational disease. Most states do not cover ordinary life diseases.

What You Need to Prove

As the disease continues to spread, it may be more difficult for an employee to prove they contracted the virus at work.

The most likely situation is where a worker contracted the disease from an outbreak at a facility. Think of an enclosed space, such as a slaughterhouse or packaging facility. If a known outbreak occurred and employers operated as usual, employees who contracted the virus may have a valid workers’ compensation claim.

Other potential scenarios include jobs where an employee’s duties required them to be around known coronavirus cases. For example, hospital cleaning staff or caregivers who might not classify as frontline healthcare workers.

If a COVID-19 outbreak occurred at a factory or enclosed space where you work, you might be able to argue that your illness is an occupational disease. If you fell ill because your employer continued to operate normally, you may have a case.

For employees who come in contact with the public regularly, such as postal workers and grocery store clerks, it may be challenging to prove that a positive coronavirus test is a disease of occupation.

Workers’ Comp vs. Sick Leave (vs. Unemployment)

Many COVID-19 patients may end up on sick leave. An ill employee could potentially quarantine for the entire time they had the virus. Once recovered, they may return to work like normal, if their job still exists.

Sick leave can complicate the situation. If the employer paid for the sick time, they might argue that they’ve already compensated the employee for lost wages. Can a workers’ comp claim still factor in?

Or, what if the employee recovers then finds he or she has no job to come back to? With so many businesses folding every day, it’s not farfetched to imagine workers’ employment evaporating during their quarantine.

Can someone who is out of work even consider workers’ comp? Like many states, Massachusettes doesn’t allow someone to claim both unemployment and workers’ compensation.

The coronavirus pandemic has complicated all aspects of life, including the employment and workers’ comp law. New questions arise every day, and millions have found themselves in a grey zone without answers.

If you think you may still have a valid case for workers’ comp, contact us as soon as you are well. Right now, your health is everyone’s priority. When you are ready, our seasoned professionals are some of the best workers’ compensation lawyers in the country.

Know Your Pre-Pandemic Rights

Even if you didn’t get sick with the coronavirus, the pandemic could still have a direct effect on your occupational health.

While many find themselves unemployed or sheltering at home, you are a member of a population that is busier than ever. Millions of employees are working longer hours. Many are working more labor-intensive hours.

With the new normal of sheltering in place, we have seen our dependence concentrate around specific industries, like grocery stores and online retailers.

The extraordinary levels of stress may make you more vulnerable to injuries. Lack of down-time means greater repetitive-stress for cashiers. It means more lifting and sitting for delivery drivers.

Remember your essential workers’ compensation rights, coronavirus aside.

  • You are entitled to medical treatment after a workplace injury.
  • You have the right to compensation for the long-term effects of an injury as well.
  • You can claim non-monetary benefits, like vocational rehabilitation, if your injury leaves you unable to do your previous job.
  • You can sue your employer if their negligence placed you in an unsafe situation.

Don’t Go It Alone

It is important to remember that workers’ compensation law works for you. The effects of a workplace injury can last a lifetime, and you need to ensure that you and your family receive adequate compensation.

One thing is sure: your employer is not going to push a claim. You need to take firm action on your workers’ compensation case, and you’re going to need help.

We have decades of experience with workers’ compensation cases. Contact us today so we can ensure you have the support you need for a successful claim.