If I Get COVID-19 at Work, Can I Get Workers’ Compensation?
The COVID-19 pandemic changed people’s daily lives in the United States and, to a large degree, worldwide. People were put in a position of needing to take extra precautions to protect themselves, their families and their communities. In some cases, exposure to COVID-19 was and still is unavoidable. Those who cannot work from home are deemed to be at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19. If an individual was exposed to the virus, a question that may have been asked is, “If I get COVID-19 at work, can I get Workers’ Compensation?”
The answer, unfortunately, is not straightforward. The workers’ compensation system was designed as an efficient way for employees who were hurt on the job or developed a work-related illness. If employees did sustain an injury, they may be able to obtain benefits to cover their medical expenses and income while they are unable to work. Unlike personal injury cases, they do not need to prove that someone else was responsible for their injury or illness. However, they do need to prove that it was work-related.
This is where it gets complicated. COVID-19 is an incredibly contagious disease. If a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, they certainly could have caught it from work. However, they could have been exposed to the virus at someone’s home, a grocery store, at an event, or while riding on public transportation. The difficulty in determining the source of a COVID-19 diagnosis makes it significantly more complicated to obtain workers’ compensation benefits. A person’s employer (or their insurance company) will likely claim that they cannot prove the employee’s COVID-19 case was work-related.
That said, obtaining workers’ compensation benefits for a COVID-19 diagnosis is not impossible. It is important to remember that the workers’ compensation commission is in the same position as everyone else because COVID-19 brought about unprecedented changes. The existing framework for determining who should receive workers’ compensation benefits was not designed with COVID-19 in mind.
Last year, lawmakers tried to provide some clarity with the introduction of House Bill 5482 (HB 5482). HB 5482 would have established a presumption that any healthcare worker, first responder, or correctional officer who was diagnosed with COVID-19 was exposed through their work. It would also have provided temporary total disability benefits for first responders, health care providers and correctional officers required to isolate due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, HB 5482 did not pass.
Did You Develop COVID-19 From the Workplace?
South Carolina workers’ compensation cases can be very complex, especially those involving COVID-19 diagnoses. Employees, employers, insurance companies and the workers’ compensation commission have not yet dealt with many of the legal issues these claims raise. However, the attorneys at the Steinberg Law Firm, LLP, command a deep knowledge of the South Carolina workers’ compensation laws and are here to help you through this difficult time. We represent employees who contracted COVID-19 while carrying out the duties of their job. Our dedicated South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers will attentively listen to you, provide our best assessment of your case and advocate for you to get the compensation you need. To learn more about how the Steinberg Law Firm can help you obtain workers’ compensation benefits for a work-related COVID-19 diagnosis, call 843-720-2800 to schedule a free consultation today.