Yes, it is possible. Whether you qualify for workers’ compensation will depend upon whether you are an employee, whether you contracted the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) at work, and whether the nature of your work is more likely to expose you to the coronavirus.
What is Workers’ Comp?
Workers’ compensation, commonly called “workers’ comp,” is a no-fault, state-administered, statutory insurance system whereby employees injured at work receive monetary benefits and medical treatment.
What is the Purpose of Workers’ Comp?
The purpose of workers’ comp is to provide the injured employee with medical benefits so that they can heal and get back to work, and to compensate the employee for lost wages. The employee may also receive compensation for temporary or permanent disability, whether partial or total.
If there were no such thing as workers’ comp insurance, injured employees would have to file a lawsuit against their employers. Workers’ comp keeps disputes out of the regular court system, although there are administrative workers’ comp courts to handle disputes between injured employees and the insurance companies. This preserves the employer-employee relationship, which otherwise would turn adversarial.
Also, under workers’ comp injured employees receive benefits relatively quickly, whereas if they had to sue their employer, they would have to wait months or years or perhaps never receive compensation at all if they do not prevail.
What Kind of Workers’ Comp Benefits Can I Get If I Get the Coronavirus?
Chances are to prevent contagion you are staying home under quarantine, or if your case is serious, you may be in the hospital. You are missing work as a result so you can expect to receive lost wages. Your medical expenses will also be covered.
My Spouse Died from COVID-19 Caught at Work. What Should I Do?
Contact a workers’ comp attorney to help you file for survivor benefits. The amount payable to qualified dependents of an employee who dies from a workplace injury or illness is usually 500 weeks at the employee’s workers’ compensation rate. This amount can be significant and will help support your family.
Who Can File for Workers’ Comp if They Get COVID-19 at Work?
Doctors, Nurses, and Other Healthcare Workers
Clearly, those healthcare workers who must work very closely with sick people would be covered under workers’ comp if they contracted COVID-19 at work. Not only doctors, nurses, orderlies, attendants, and ambulance drivers, but home health aides, assisted living staff, rehabilitation facility workers and the like would probably be covered.
Because people who have COVID-19 may show no symptoms but still be contagious, likely anyone who must closely with people would be covered under workers’ comp. Medical specialists like dentists and dental assistants, ophthalmologists and optometrists, and physical therapists are probably covered.
What about massage therapists? Acupuncturists? Chiropractors? Likely anyone who must be in close contact with their asymptomatic but contagious clients or patients would be covered if they contracted the coronavirus at work.
EMTs, police, and firemen who must administer first aid or otherwise handle people in the course of their duties would likely be covered if they caught COVID-19 at work because their duties make it more likely than not that they would contract the illness from someone who is contagious but showing no symptoms.
Workers Whose Job Description Prevents Them From Maintaining Social Distancing
Many employees must work in situations where it is impossible to maintain a six-foot distance from others because it is a crowded environment. Think about schools, daycare centers, social activities like Boy Scouts, and athletic activities. Teachers, leaders, and coaches are all susceptible to catching the coronavirus from asymptomatic but contagious pupils or participants.
What about a cashier at a retail store, or a waiter at a restaurant, or a clerk at the post office? These employees have no control over who walks in and how close that person gets to them, and risks being exposed to any asymptomatic but contagious member of the public just by coming in to work.
Perhaps Other Workers
While it is a simpler matter to argue that healthcare workers are more likely to contract the coronavirus at work than other workers, there are many other jobs that entail handling people or being unable to avoid being close to people.
Call a Workers’ Comp Lawyer if You Think You Caught the Coronavirus at Work
Whether workers’ comp is available to you is a fact-specific inquiry and many other employees besides healthcare workers may be eligible for workers’ comp benefits. If you’ve contracted COVID-19 at work, consult with a workers’ comp attorney and find out if you have a case.
About the Author
Veronica Baxter is a blogger and legal assistant living and working in the great city of Philadelphia. She frequently works with Larry Pitt, Esq., a workers’ compensation lawyer in Philadelphia.