PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT FROM GOLD COUNTRY WORKERS’ COMP CENTER
April 16, 2020
Contracting COVID-19 can trigger the receipt of Workers’ Compensation Benefits.
With COVID-19 dominating our lifestyle and causing extensive damage to so many individuals’ health and personal financial condition, there is a prevalent focus on what public benefits are available to the many impacted by the virus. Reasonable evidence-based statistics indicate at least 50% of the population will at some point contract the disease and 1 in 5 of those will need hospitalization. COVID-19 is at least 10 times more lethal than regular flu.
Whether someone (or their dependents) can get Workers’ Compensation benefits if they fall ill (or die) due to contracting COVID-19 depends on several factors. First, a few words about Workers’ Comp in general:
If your work causes an injury or exposes you to, and you suffer an injury or sickness, whether caused by a specific incident or over time resulting from “cumulative trauma,” Workers’ Compensation benefits are generally payable. These benefits include Temporary Disability during the time you suffer a full or even partial wage loss, medical care (including travel expenses), if you suffer permanent impairment, a monetary award for “Permanent” disability and if your employer does not offer you a job after a comprehensive medical report detailing any work restrictions, a job displacement benefit. If death results, the decedent’s dependents can receive monetary benefits, too. Evidence is mounting that COVID-19 can cause long term organ and heart damage. Workers also are suffering psychological injury and impairment due to exposure.
Proving an injury or contracted disease “arose out of and in the course of employment” can sometimes be difficult, and generally, contracting a non-occupational disease from a co-worker or customer is not compensable. However, there are certain types of workers who can assert such a claim:
Front line workers whose job requires them to be in frequent contact with people who are known to have COVID-19 and who contract the disease can definitely prove their disease is work related.
There are actually two 100-year old California Supreme Court cases finding workers’ comp benefits are payable in this situation, and these cases are still good law. This was in the context of the 2018 world-wide pandemic called the “Spanish Flu.”
Also, generally speaking, an employee who incurs “Special Exposure,” “Increased Risk,” or a “Materially Greater Risk” of contracting COIVD-19 than the general public can probably show entitlement to Workers’ Comp benefits if they contract the disease. There are several cases supporting this theory.
While Alaska, Illinois and Michigan’s legislatures have passed bills establishing a presumption of industrial causation in favor of front-line workers caring for patients with COVID-19, the California legislature is considering such a bill, however it is not (yet) the law in California.
There are also many other public benefit programs available to those whose ability to work is diminished because they or their family members have suffered a serious medical problem.
It is good advice to contact a Workers’ Compensation law firm for more detailed advice about potentially available benefits for people suffering from COVID-19, any work-related illness or injury, or to get information about the many other public benefits available for people with medical conditions that interfere with their ability to work, or whose family members have suffered serious injury or illness.
Gold Country Workers’ Comp Center in Grass Valley offers free telephonic consultations to those who want to learn about their rights to public or private benefits in the face of medical conditions or illnesses they or their family members are suffering from. Contact them at (530) 362-7188 or visit www.goldcountrycomp.com