Can I Get Workers’ Comp for COVID-19?
What happens if you contract COVID-19 while on the job? Can you get workers’ compensation benefits?
As the COVID-19 pandemic extends, these questions continue to be important ones for many Ohio workers—particularly frontline and other essential workers, who’ve been at increased risk of contracting the disease.
Today, we’re discussing COVID-19 and workers’ compensation. Keep reading to learn what you need to know about this topic, including whether COVID is covered, what your rights are as a worker, and when to speak to an attorney.
Can I Get Workers’ Comp Benefits for COVID?
If you contract COVID-19, will workers’ compensation cover you? The answer to this question could be yes, but there is an important caveat: COVID must recognized as an “occupational illness” for your job. Let’s explain what that is, and why it can make proving your case tricky.
What is an occupational illness?
In order for something to be an “occupational illness,” you must get sick at work, and your employment must put you at an increased risk of developing the illness. (It’s not enough just to become ill while employed. Many people develop all kinds of conditions unrelated to their jobs because of genetics, other environmental factors, or simply bad luck.) One famous example of an occupational illness is mesothelioma, a type of cancer. Mesothelioma is common among people who work in construction, power plants, and shipyards and as firefighters. That’s because these professions are often exposed to asbestos—and asbestos is a known cause of mesothelioma. Because these professions are known to have a heightened risk of exposure to cancer-causing material, mesothelioma can be considered an occupational illness.
Is COVID-19 an occupational illness for your profession?
In order for COVID-19 to be an “occupational illness” in your case, you need to work a job where you are at an increased risk of coronavirus exposure. This might include professions like:
- Health care workers, including doctors, dentists, nurses, physician’s assistants, and others
- EMTs and paramedics
- Nursing home caregivers
All of these jobs involve significant exposure risk to COVID. (Obviously, many health care workers are caring for people who actually have COVID-19.)
That said, you are not guaranteed to receive workers’ compensation benefits if you work one of these jobs.
Under the Ohio workers’ compensation system, the burden of proof is on the employee to prove that their COVID illness is work-related. This is different from other states, like Virginia, which recently passed laws changing that burden of proof to be on the employer. When high-risk workers file claims in these states, the law presumes that the worker contracted COVID-19 on the job, unless the employer can prove otherwise. (Of course, if anything like this passes in Ohio, we will let you know.)
To prove your workers’ comp claim, you will need to have evidence, like a COVID diagnosis and proof that your job is high-risk.
What if my job doesn’t give me an increased risk of COVID?
If you don’t work in a high-risk job, it can be impossible to prove that your illness was work-related.
Why? Workers’ compensation doesn’t include most communicable diseases. That includes illnesses like the common cold, the flu, etc. Essentially, these illnesses are so common, and they circulate so widely, that it’s practically impossible to determine whether a person was infected at work.
COVID-19, like other communicable diseases, can spread anywhere people congregate—not just in workplaces but also in churches, schools, and homes. It’s tough to know (and tougher to prove) when and where you contracted the virus. It’s easy for your employer to argue that you contracted COVID-19 at the grocery store, at the bank, or elsewhere. This lets the employer off the hook for paying your claim.
Should I Get a Workers’ Comp Lawyer?
It’s always a good idea to speak with a workers’ comp lawyer. For cases involving occupational illnesses, it’s even more important. As we mentioned above, proving these cases can be tricky. If your employer fights your claim, it can be even more difficult.
A skilled workers’ compensation lawyer will have the experience, knowledge, and resources needed to help you. You can discuss your case, learn your options, and move forward confident in your claim. Often, help from a qualified workers’ comp lawyer increases your odds of a successful claim.
Contact Us Today
At Casper & Casper, we’re here for you, every step of the way.
We understand how difficult this situation is and will do everything we can to help you succeed. We believe the frontline and essential workers—those who have braved the risk of COVID to help others and do important work—deserve our support.
If you believe you contracted COVID-19 at work and want to file a workers’ compensation claim, call us today.