If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 because you were exposed at work, you are probably wondering whether you’re entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The coronavirus affects each person differently and may cause minor symptoms in some and life-threatening illness in others. If your condition is severe and has led to missed work and medical expenses, workers’ comp may provide the essential support you need.
While every case is different and it’s best to get insight regarding your unique situation from a legal professional, workers’ compensation covers all work-related injuries and illnesses—including the coronavirus.
Let’s take a closer look at how Pennsylvania is addressing work-related coronavirus exposure.
Is COVID Considered a Work-Related Injury or Disease?
According to the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, an illness caused by workplace exposure (like the coronavirus) may be considered an injury or an occupational disease. Whether your condition is considered an injury or disease may depend on the nature of your work and how you were exposed. Regardless, you can rest assured that if you contracted COVID-19 due to exposure at the workplace or in association with your job duties, it is considered work-related and should be covered by workers’ comp.
For more information, you can review the Workers’ Compensation & COVID-19 FAQs presented by the Pennsylvania Office of Unemployment Compensation.
Is Workers’ Compensation Available to Essential Workers Diagnosed with COVID-19?
Last April, we discussed what workers’ compensation laws do to assist healthcare workers diagnosed with COVID-19. Healthcare workers are the heroes on the frontline of this pandemic. However, there is a second group of workers who are facing risks every day to make sure Americans are receiving the goods and services that they need: essential workers.
Essential workers, like healthcare workers and other employees in Pennsylvania, are covered by workers' compensation for COVID-related harm. It's important to know your rights and responsibilities related to workers' comp, as this will protect your right to benefits.
When Should I Tell My Employer About a Work-Related COVID Diagnosis?
You should tell your supervisor or manager about COVID exposure or a positive diagnosis as soon as possible. In Pennsylvania, you have 21 days to report any workplace injury or illness to your employer. If you do not report in time, this could affect your eligibility for full workers’ compensation coverage.
After a worker reports their COVID-19 illness as a work-related injury, employers must report it instantly to their workers’ compensation insurance company. From here, the insurer has 21 days to accept or deny the claim.
What Benefits Will I Receive?
If your COVID workers’ compensation claim is approved, you may receive:
- Up to 2/3 of your average weekly wage for time missed from work; and
- 100% of your coronavirus-related medical expenses.
Coverage is provided for as long as you are out of work and require medical care.
Can I Bring a Lawsuit Against My Employer After Contracting the Coronavirus?
The purpose of the workers’ compensation system is to offer employees a way to get financial support and medical care for work-related injuries and illnesses without having to prove that their employers are to blame. Workers’ comp benefits are provided on a no-fault basis, and employers are protected from litigation for on-the-job injuries.
There are some exceptions, however, and an attorney can talk to you about what may apply in your case. For example, coronavirus exposure caused by gross negligence or intentional misconduct, or a case where exposure was the fault of a third party (such as a vendor or customer), may open the door for litigation. If you have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit related to COVID-19, our team at Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC can talk to you about your rights and options.
What If My COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Claim Is Denied?
If you believe you contracted COVID-19 from a sick coworker or from being in contact with infected customers, you should speak with a workers’ compensation lawyer from Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC. Workers’ comp should cover your medical expenses and a portion of your lost earnings. Filing a claim can be tricky, however, and denials are common. You may experience unnecessary delays or may find yourself dealing with an employer who claims you were exposed outside of work.
Ultimately, the insurance company will decide whether to approve or deny your claim. If they don’t think you have a strong claim, they’ll deny it to save money. Instead of dealing with a workers’ comp insurance company and employer that put their interests over yours, choose a team that can help you recover the money and get the medical treatment you need. Whether we pursue your workers’ comp claim or file a lawsuit on your behalf, our attorneys can fight for the level of support and care that will make all the difference as you rebuild and move on with your life.
Call us now at (888) 498-3023 or fill out our online form to speak with our Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorneys. Our firm is still 100% active and helping clients during this difficult time.