If You Get COVID at Work Can You Get Workers’ Comp?

New York was the world’s focus due to the coronavirus, and if you contracted it, you might wonder whether if you get COVID at work, can you get workers’ comp? Workers’ compensation benefits can cover those who become ill because of a disease or infection they contracted at work. The biggest stumbling blocks are proving your infection is work-related and the fact that insurance companies will be fighting these claims very strongly.

Workers’ compensation provides partial wage replacement benefits and payment for medical care for work-related injuries and illnesses. All for-profit employers and most non-profit employers must carry workers’ compensation insurance for all their employees. Workers’ compensation insurance covers all healthcare related to your injury and cash benefits (two-thirds of your average weekly wage, up to a maximum).

Can You Get Workers’ Comp if You Got COVID on the Job?

Whether you can get workers’ comp for getting sick with COVID at work depends on the law in NY, too. Your attorney will interpret the statute covering the types of work injuries that present a valid claim. The New York Workers’ Compensation Law § 2(7) states that “injury” and “personal injury” are “only accidental injuries arising out of and in the course of employment and such disease or infection as may naturally and unavoidably result.…”

Each claim is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the facts of your situation, a claim for getting a COVID-19 infection could be considered an accidental injury or occupational disease under workers’ comp statutes.

State law defines “occupational disease” as “a disease resulting from the nature of employment and contracted therein.”  To get workers’ comp for coronavirus, you would need to show a “recognizable link” between the infection and a “distinctive feature” of your work.  The disease would need to be caused by the nature and risks of your job, not by the conditions of where you work.

A workers’ comp for COVID claim could be based on accidental exposure to the virus. You would have to show your job probably caused your disability. The connection need not be certain, but there must be evidence to back you up. We would use expert medical opinion to establish this issue.

Can you get workers’ comp if you got COVID on the job? It would depend on the evidence. You would need to show specific virus exposure while working, but because you may have also been exposed outside of work, this probability may be hard to prove. An insurance company could argue that your physician or medical expert is guessing, given how widespread the virus is.

Your chances of getting workers’ comp for COVID are better if you were a healthcare provider heavily exposed to people infected with the virus. Many of us who suffered COVID-19 worked in other jobs working with those who were contagious. You may work in public transit, as a first responder, or in a supporting role in healthcare (such as in maintenance or in a janitorial position). Although common sense would say you probably were infected on the job, it takes more than that for a successful workers’ comp claim.

Workers’ Comp for COVID Could be Based on Mental Injuries and Stress

Another possible workers’ comp for COVID claim is for mental injuries related to known or potential exposure to the coronavirus.  Under state law, a mental injury caused by a psychic trauma due to your work environment is compensable.  It can be psychological or nervous injuries caused by traumas or prolonged, unusual circumstances.

Except for first responders, to have a valid claim for work-related stress, it needs to be greater than what normally occurs in your work environment.  For first responders, the stress need not be more than their typical work environment.

Stress caused by a known coronavirus exposure at work should be more than what happens in your normal work environment.  Concerns about a possible workplace exposure that didn’t happen probably wouldn’t be enough to collect workers’ comp for COVID, given that anxiety exists outside your job.

If your job required you to be exposed to the public for a long time, the resulting stress might be seen as more than what occurs in a normal work environment. If your employer didn’t follow proper disease-prevention rules, it could support your workers’ comp for COVID claim that your stress was greater than your pre-coronavirus work environment.

Three bills are pending in the New York state legislature that would make it easier for those with job-related COVID-19 to obtain workers’ comp benefits. None of them have become law yet.

Insurance Companies Don’t Want You to Get Workers’ Comp for Coronavirus

Not only are there legal hurdles to winning a COVID-19 claim, if they became widely successful, they would cost insurance companies substantial amounts of money. They always try to find ways to deny claims and delay benefits, but the financial threat these claims pose will make denials practically automatic, putting the burden of proof on claimants.

As of May 28, NPR reported nationwide 60,000 healthcare workers were infected, and nearly 300 died of the infection. There were 154,399 reported COVID-19 cases in New York City by those of working age (18-64) as of June 28, according to the New York City Department of Health. Insurance companies have tens of thousands of reasons to prevent benefits from being paid in these cases.

Get Workers’ Comp for Coronavirus with Help from Kaplan Lawyers

Bringing a workers’ comp claim can be confusing and complicated, especially if it involves COVID-19. If you believe you suffered a work-related COVID-19 infection or mental injury, one of our skilled attorneys can help you through the process and fight for your rights. The attorneys at Kaplan Lawyers, PC are here to help you. Contact us at (516) 399-2364 to schedule a free case review.

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