South Carolina Healthcare Employee Occupational Disease Lawyer

South Carolina Healthcare Employee Occupational Disease Lawyer

Healthcare workers selflessly put themselves on the front line in the fight against the coronavirus, at great risk to their own health and safety. If not for these courageous individuals, the coronavirus would undoubtedly claim many more lives throughout South Carolina and the world. Unfortunately, healthcare workers across the United States are contracting the coronavirus or COVID-19 at an alarming rate. The exact number of South Carolina healthcare workers who have contracted COVID-19 or died from the virus is unknown, because the state does not track this information. According to a CNN piece by Kent Sepkowitz, so far the coronavirus infected at least 9,200 healthcare workers across the United States. However, public health officials believe the actual number of infected workers is much higher due to a lack of testing. What is known is that many of these cases could have been avoided had hospitals been better prepared.

Healthcare Workers Facing Greater Risks From Coronavirus Compared to Other Occupations

  • There are 2,951,960 registered nurses in the United States
    • 93 percent of nurses are exposed to disease throughout their workday
      • On average, just 19.9 percent of non-healthcare workers are exposed to disease throughout their day.
    • 98.4 percent of nurses have frequent face-to-face interactions with others.
      • On average, just 85.3 percent of non-healthcare workers have frequent interaction with others throughout their day.
  • At least 12 percent of all essential workers lack healthcare.
    • Ambulatory health care facilities – 89.8 percent of employees have health insurance
    • Hospitals – 95.9 percent of employees have health insurance
    • Nursing and residential care facilities – 86.9 percent of employees have health insurance

What Is the Coronavirus?

COVID-19 is an infectious disease primarily spread through the air. When an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, they release small droplets into the air. These droplets may contain the virus and, if someone else breaths them in, that person may contract the virus. COVID-19 can also spread when an uninfected person touches an infected surface and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.

What Are the Symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms of the coronavirus are similar to those of the flu, and include a dry cough, fever, aches, loss of taste and smell, and in severe cases, difficulty breathing.

Who Is at Risk for Coronavirus?

Experts believe everyone is susceptible to the coronavirus (COVID-19), and no one is immune. Anyone who contracts COVID-19 has a risk of serious injury or death. However, many of those who are young and healthy will recover if infected. That said, even an otherwise healthy person may become ill and could need to be hospitalized before recovering. While occurring in lower numbers, even young, healthy people have died from the coronavirus. The disease presents an increased risk for those over 60 years of age, those with weakened immune systems, as well as individuals with certain pre-existing health conditions. The problematic pre-existing conditions include:

  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • HIV
  • Asthma
  • Heart conditions
  • Lung conditions
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes

Protecting Against the Spread of COVID-19

COVID-19 spreads through the air as well as through physical touch. The World Health Organization recommends that, to combat the spread of the disease, everyone:

  • Wash their hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with liquid soap and water;
  • Cover their nose and mouth with a disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing;
  • Avoid close contact (within six feet) of those who may have the virus;
  • Wear a mask when around other people; and
  • Stay at home and self-isolate if feeling unwell

On April 6, 2020, Governor McMaster issued an executive order requiring most residents stay home to reduce the rate at which COVID-19 spreads. However, the Governor’s executive order leaves room for many “essential” businesses to continue operating. Employees who work for these essential businesses, depending on their particular employers, may be required to come into work. Of course, many healthcare workers are “essential employees.”

While anyone exposed to the virus can be infected, healthcare workers including doctors, nurses, physician assistants and pharmacists, are the most at risk for contracting COVID-19.

At the Steinberg Law Firm, LLC, we represent essential employees in workers’ compensation claims and personal injury lawsuits to help them recover for damages caused by contracting the coronavirus. For nearly one hundred years, our firm has been handling occupational illness claims for South Carolina’s workers. We possess the knowledge and professionalism to handle your occupational illness case from beginning to end with the utmost care and consideration.

The Hazards Facing South Carolina Healthcare Workers

South Carolina’s Healthcare workers who are on the front line in the fight against coronavirus face enormous risks each time they go to work. Due to the rapid spread of the virus, as well as a general lack of preparedness, healthcare workers face a variety of risks.

Perhaps the most obvious risk healthcare workers face is that they spend a significant amount of time around patients infected with COVID-19. According to a recent study, over 93 percent of nurses are frequently exposed to diseases, and 98 percent are frequently in face-to-face contact with others, including patients. Because the coronavirus can spread easily through the air, hospitals are an ideal environment for the virus to spread.

Lack of Personal Protective Equipment for Healthcare Workers

Adding to the risks facing healthcare workers is the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). The unavailability or limited amount of PPE puts South Carolina healthcare workers at a much greater risk of contracting the virus. Personal protective equipment, such as N95 masks, isolation gowns, facemasks, gloves, and eye protection, can reduce the risk of infection for healthcare workers. However, this crucial PPE has been in short supply across the state since the beginning of the pandemic. As a result, many of South Carolina’s healthcare workers have reused equipment that was designated for a single use. Some medical professionals have even had to create their own PPE. While re-used and home-made equipment is better than nothing, it is not an acceptable replacement for those who are already placing themselves in danger to care for others with COVID-19.

Further increasing the risks healthcare workers face is the fact that there is a shortage of healthcare workers at a time when hospitals are operating at or above capacity. Medical professionals are tirelessly working around the clock and, even with this effort, hospitals are still short staffed.

As a result, South Carolina healthcare workers are being asked to perform a monumental task without the support and protection needed to safely do their jobs. Not surprisingly, healthcare workers across the state have been infected with the coronavirus, and additional infections of healthcare workers are expected. Healthcare workers who contracted COVID-19 should reach out to one of the dedicated workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyers at the Steinberg Law Firm for assistance.

Recovering Financially after a Work-Related Coronavirus (COVID-19) Diagnosis

Those South Carolina healthcare workers who contracted the coronavirus disease may be eligible for compensation. Depending on the circumstances of their illness, a healthcare worker may pursue either a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury case. Each of these claims provide compensation to injured healthcare workers; however, they are very different in the type of compensation that is available the proof required to win on the claim.

Generally, South Carolina Workers’ compensation claims provide a simplified way to recover compensation after a workplace accident. This includes situations where an employee contracts an occupational illness such as COVID-19. South Carolina’s workers’ compensation system is a no-fault system, meaning that an employee who files a workers’ compensation claim does not need to prove that their employer was at fault. On the other hand, damages in a workers’ compensation claim are generally limited to medical expenses and lost wages. Workers’ compensation claimants typically cannot obtain non-economic damages such as compensation for pain and suffering.

A South Carolina personal injury case may be an option for some healthcare workers who have contracted COVID-19). Personal injury claims are based on negligence so to establish liability in a South Carolina personal injury claim an infected employee must show they contracted the coronavirus as the result of another’s negligence. Personal injury claims arising out of occupational illnesses can be difficult for a few reasons. First, under the South Carolina workers’ compensation laws, an employee’s sole remedy against their employer is typically a workers’ compensation claim. However, the sole remedy provision does not protect an employer from personal injury liability when an employer “intentionally engages in misconduct knowing it is substantially certain to cause serious injury or death.” While South Carolina courts have never wrestled with many of the legal issues brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, some have suggested that hospitals act willfully when they require nurses and doctors to work with COVID-19 patients knowing that they have inadequate personal protective equipment.

Importantly, in both South Carolina workers’ compensation claims and personal injury cases, a healthcare employee must be able to show that they contracted the virus through their work.

Contact a South Carolina Occupational Disease Lawyer Today

While any South Carolina injury claim can be complex, this is especially true in relation to the unprecedented situation the coronavirus crisis presents. The attorneys at the Steinberg Law Firm, LLP, are here to help you and your family through this difficult time. We represent South Carolina healthcare workers and other essential employees who have contracted COVID-19. Even if you are not certain where you contracted the virus, we can help. Our compassionate team of South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers recognize the difficulties all healthcare workers are facing, and cater our representation accordingly, making sure to answer all your questions in a straightforward and understandable way.

At the Steinberg Law Firm, your health and safety are critically important to us, especially during the COVID-19 national emergency. Our lawyers and paralegals will be working remotely to ensure both new and existing clients still receive the legal assistance they need. We deployed remote working technology and are using phone and video conferencing.

If you need our help for whatever reason, please contact us to discuss your situation and how we may be able to help you. As always, we offer free consultations. During this remote period, we conduct initial consultations over the phones, using FaceTime, or using Zoom — whatever works best for you.

If you have any questions or concerns, please call us at 843-720-2800 or email us at info@steinberglawfirm.com.

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Steinberg attorneys have been awarded numerous distinctions, such as Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America by U.S. News & World Report, Gedney M. Howe, Jr. Award for Outstanding Public Service, the SC Leadership in Law award, and has been voted Best Workers’ Comp Firm in SC, among other distinctions.

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