Coronavirus (also known as Covid-19) has affected workers’ compensation in many ways, not only in how claims are processed but also in terms of acceptable claims. If you have been exposed to coronavirus at your workplace or been diagnosed with COVID-19, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits to cover your medical bills and replace lost wages. To find out if you’re eligible, contact the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Benn, Haro & Isaacs, PLLC.
Steps to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim for Coronavirus
Workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 must take the following steps to pursue a workers’ compensation claim:
- Provide notice to the employer about the circumstances which led to the illness within 30 days of exposure or initial symptoms. This timeline may be extended when the cause of the coronavirus could not be determined without a medical opinion.
- If the employer and their workers’ comp administrator do not accept the claim, a written Petition for Benefits must be submitted to the Office of Judges of Compensation Claims within 2 years.
For workers who aren’t frontline state employees and do not have the presumption of compensability protection, a report must also be submitted by a doctor providing a summary of the facts leading to the exposure, the diagnosis, and a statement that there is a causal link between the diagnosis and your work activity.
COVID-19 Has Been Declared a “Recordable Injury”
As a general rule, workers’ compensation generally excludes coverage for “ordinary diseases of life” which include the flu and common cold. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has declared that coronavirus is a “recordable injury.” This is an important distinction because it means employers must notify the agency when employees contract COVID-19.
OSHA’s guidance on coronavirus also includes safety standards for employers whose workers are at a higher risk of contracting coronavirus which should be implemented to stay in compliance with OSHA rules.
Is Coronavirus Covered by Florida Workers’ Compensation?
Whether or not coronavirus exposure or contacting COVID-19 on the job is covered by workers’ compensation in Florida is a bit complicated. Currently, “frontline state employees” have the most protection under workers’ comp but other employees can still be eligible for benefits.
If you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 and are unsure if you qualify, it’s important you contact us immediately.
COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Coverage for Frontline State Workers
In March, the Florida Division of Risk Management which provides workers’ comp coverage to certain state employees announced a directive to process workers’ compensation claims submitted by “frontline state employees” who have tested positive for the coronavirus. The directive stated that these claims are compensable for occupational disease unless the state can show the frontline employee contracted COVID-19 outside of the scope of their employment.
Frontline state employees are workers who have been required to interact with potentially infected people including:
- Child safety investigators
- Law enforcement
- Correctional officers
- Healthcare workers
- Florida National Guardsman
The Florida League of Cities, the administrator of the Florida Municipal Insurance Trust which providers workers’ comp coverage for local governments, has also said it will cover municipal first responders who submit COVID-19 claims.
For frontline state workers, this news means the state will give claimants the benefit of the doubt with COVID-19 claims.
Coronavirus Workers’ Compensation Coverage for Private Sector Workers
The directive does not extend to tens of thousands of Florida workers in “essential jobs” such as grocery store workers, office workers, delivery staff, and warehouse workers.
Private insurance companies dominate workers’ comp in Florida for non-government workers. Florida can’t mandate that these private companies cover specific claims, including workers’ comp claims for COVID-19.
Workers who are not frontline state employees can still file a workers’ compensation claim for coronavirus after testing positive for COVID-19. Workers will need to prove they contracted coronavirus on the job and their work put them at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. For peace of mind, first contact a workers’ compensation lawyer so you don’t have to worry about collecting or presenting any evidence – that’s why we’re here to help!
This can be challenging depending on the workplace. For example, some employees such as grocery store workers may have an easier time proving a claim if other employees or customers at their store also tested positive for COVID-19.
These claims will generally require a medical opinion regarding causation. This means a medical opinion that there was sufficient exposure at the workplace and that you likely caught the coronavirus within the scope of your work.
It’s hoped that there will be some presumption that essential workers in high-risk environments contracted COVID-19 during the scope of their work.
Contact a Florida Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Even under normal circumstances, workers’ compensation claims can be complex and many rightful claims are denied.
If you have tested positive for COVID-19 or believe you have been exposed to coronavirus due to your work activities, contact the team of workers’ comp lawyers at Benn, Haro & Isaacs, PLLC to discuss how to pursue a workers’ compensation claim and seek the benefits you deserve.