At the onset of the pandemic, most businesses decided to close their doors out of an abundance of caution to protect both staff and customers. As the weeks and months wore on, though, businesses needed to reopen or face permanent closure. Unfortunately for business owners, reopening their business also left the door open for liability concerns.
After all, what happens if a worker contracts COVID-19? Are they covered by worker’s compensation?
If you contracted the coronavirus while at work, then you may have a right to pursue a claim. Due to the complex nature of the virus and ever-changing legislation, it will be complicated, though.
Traditional Illnesses and Worker’s Compensation
Under normal circumstances, each state’s worker’s compensation program is meant to reimburse employees who get hurt or fall ill due to the nature of their work. If you develop an illness or condition related to your work-related duties, then you can file a worker’s compensation claim. Your employer, who should be insured, helps document what happened. Then, the insurance company pays you the benefits you deserve.
How COVID-19 Laws Are Extending Worker’s Compensation Coverage
During a pandemic, however, worker’s compensation claims are a real challenge. When the outbreak was first announced on mainstream media outlets, many businesses immediately became concerned about their liability.
Most states cover “occupational” illnesses in their worker’s compensation laws, but does COVID-19 fall under that scope? Many states intentionally exclude “ordinary” illnesses from coverage, so the answer isn’t clear. Right now, there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding coverage for COVID-19.
Thankfully, on March 1, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. This new law will help federal workers who contract COVID-19 receive coverage under worker’s compensation. This new law could overturn previously denied or withdrawn COVID-19 worker’s compensation claims, too. If you were denied benefits and you’re a federal employee, then now is a good time to have your claim reviewed.
The Complexity of COVID-19
Despite the new law, getting compensation for COVID-19 is still extremely complex. First of all, you need to prove that the nature of your job put you at a higher risk of exposure than the general population. That means you’re more likely to receive coverage if you are a frontline or essential worker who deals with the public.
On top of that, you must prove that you actually contracted the novel virus while at work or performing work-related duties. Proving you caught COVID-19 at work is a challenge, even if you have some evidence of workplace exposure. The reason why it will be difficult to prove is because COVID-19 is spreading across communities nationwide. It would be all-too-easy for your insurer to deny your claim and say that you likely contracted COVID-19 as a result of “normal” rather than “work-related” actions.
Employer Negligence During the COVID-19 Pandemic
There’s yet another aspect that may come into play if you contracted COVID-19 at work. In a typical situation, you wouldn’t be able to seek out a personal injury lawsuit against your employer if you contracted an illness at work. Instead, you’d be limited to collecting worker’s compensation benefits. If your employer was negligent, though, then you may have an opportunity to pursue a lawsuit.
The early days of the pandemic were filled with uncertainty. In most states, governments issued stay-at-home orders and only allowed essential employees to continue working. As the weeks went on, new measures were put into place, like social distancing and mask requirements.
Employers are expected to adhere to all state and federal guidelines regarding COVID-19. Failing to ensure social distancing or mask requirements could be considered employer negligence if you catch COVID-19. It’s your employer’s responsibility to take reasonable steps to ensure your safety. If your employer intentionally bucked stay-at-home orders or was otherwise negligent, then they could be held liable in court depending on your state’s laws. If this type of situation describes your current situation, then it’s advised that you reach out to an attorney as soon as possible about what happened.
What You Need to Know About Worker’s Compensation and COVID-19
Are you wondering if you’re eligible for worker’s compensation after contracting COVID-19 at work? Were you previously denied a COVID-19 related claim, and you’re a federal employee? If so, then it’s a good idea to review your options with a lawyer.
Let us help you find a qualified worker’s compensation lawyer. Navigate over to our lawyer search now to find an attorney in your area who can assist you with getting the compensation you deserve.
This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.
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