The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed the world in many ways. With each day, as humanity learns more about the virus, people have faced stay-at-home orders, shelter-in-place guidelines, business closures, and more. In addition, everyone has learned lots of new terminology and technology, from zoom meetings to essential workers to “flatten the curve,” much has changed, in particular how Americans and those around the world do business.
One area affected is workers’ compensation, not only in the way claims are being processed but also in the questions of new, acceptable claims. For those exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace, questions abound. Are you eligible for workers’ compensation as a result of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis? The short answer is yes, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits for lost wages and medical bills related to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, if you are not a healthcare provider or first responder who treated an individual who was infected, getting workers’ compensation will likely present a challenge. Essentially, whether you qualify will be determined by the circumstances of your case, as well as the nature of your work and the rules in your state (including temporary changes related to the pandemic).
“A Recordable Injury”
Workers’ compensation, as a rule, excludes colds and flu, as “ordinary diseases of life.” On the other hand, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has declared COVID-19 a “recordable injury” meaning it must be reported by employers when employees are infected. As such, OSHA has also implemented additional safety standards for businesses whose employees face a higher risk of becoming infected with the Coronavirus. In most cases, workers’ compensation, in turn, covers occupational diseases employees may contract as a result of their work, which is where COVID-19 may land, especially for healthcare workers, first responders, and possibly others.
Occupational diseases eligibility varies from state to state though in most cases it is required that individuals can show the nature of their job caused the infection, posed a higher risk of exposure than members of the general population and contracted the illness as a result of their job. Meeting those requirements will be more difficult given the extent of the Coronavirus pandemic spread. Because exposure is widespread, it will be challenging for individuals to prove exposure occurred as a result of their employment. Medical evidence will likely be required to demonstrate workplace exposure in states which allow COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims.
Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim for COVID-19
If you have tested positive for COVID-19 and you believe your Coronavirus infection is a result of your job, here are the steps you should take to file a workers’ compensation claim.
- Give notice to your employer regarding the circumstances you feel led to your COVID-19 infection. This must be done within 30 days of your initial symptoms or your exposure. An extension may be allowed given the coronavirus infection, testing, and diagnosis timelines.
- If your employer or its workers’ compensation administrator fail to accept your claim, you may submit a written petition of benefits to the Office of Judges of Compensation Claims. This must be submitted within two years of the incident.
- Hire a workers’ compensation lawyer to help you through the legal process and get you the compensation you deserve. For more information, visit our COVID-19 page.
For employees who do not have the presumption of compensability protection and are not considered frontline state employees, you will need a physician’s report submitted, detailing the facts of your exposure and diagnosis, as well as a statement linking the diagnosis and your work.
Who are Frontline State Employees?
In Florida, frontline state employees are those whose job requires them to interact with potentially infected individuals. This list includes:
- Child safety investigators
- Healthcare workers
- Law enforcement
- Correctional officers
- Florida National Guardsman
The Florida Division of Risk Management (provider of workers’ compensation coverage to state employees) announced in March a directive to process Coronavirus workers’ compensation claims for frontline state employees. Also, the Florida League of cities (administrator of Florida Municipal Insurance Trust and provider of workers’ compensation coverage for localities) added coverage for community first responders with COVID-19 claims. In both instances, frontline state workers who make COVID-19 claims are compensable as occupational disease claims unless the state can show otherwise.
What about Private Sector Employees?
The frontline state employees’ directive has not been extended to cover private-sector employees in essential positions like office workers, grocery store employees, warehouse workers, delivery drivers, and more. Even so, those private-sector employees who test positive for COVID-19 can file a workers’ compensation claim. Once filed, these employees will need to prove they contracted the infection because their job put them at a higher risk of contracting the novel coronavirus. These claims will require a physician’s statement demonstrating sufficient workplace exposure and causation.
For assistance and legal representation, contact our experienced team of workers’ compensation lawyers.
Contact an Expert Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you have contracted COVID-19, and are unsure of how to proceed with a workers’ compensation claim, call on the expert legal team at Benn, Haro, and Isaacs, PLLC.
With offices throughout Florida, the team at Benn, Haro, and Isaacs, PLLC is ready to help you with a free consultation and personalized representation to get the compensation you deserve.