COVID-19 & Workers’ Compensation
In the last few months, many jobs that are not generally considered particularly dangerous, such as working in a grocery store, have suddenly become much more hazardous because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has opened the question of workers’ compensation insurance for those who are affected and whether their expenses should be covered under that type of insurance; while as of yet, there appears to be no clear answer, it is still important to keep up with what authorities have to say on the subject so far.
Workers’ Compensation General Rules
Generally, workers’ compensation insurance is designed to cover on-the-job injuries while shielding an employer from lawsuits that can be ten times more expensive. In Florida, employers with 4 or more employees must have workers’ compensation coverage (though some other industries are required to have workers’ compensation if they have 1 employee, or 6), and if you are injured on the job or in a work activity, your “reasonable” medical bills will be covered, and you may also be eligible for impairment benefits or temporary disability payments (wage loss).
After an on-the-job injury, you must report it to your employer within 30 days, after which you will be sent to an occupational doctor for an evaluation. Your employer’s insurer will approve or deny your petition. If you are denied, you can appeal all the way to the Florida Supreme Court, though it is unlikely that they will take the case. If your petition is approved, you are able to remain on temporary disability for as long as it takes to reach maximum medical improvement (or until a set term of weeks has elapsed).
Is COVID Covered?
If a person contracts a disease while on the job, pre-existing laws already existed that mandated covering its symptoms as long as the worker could prove that they contracted the condition at work – so-called “occupational diseases” are commonly covered under workers’ compensation insurance. However, it may be quite difficult to establish that a person contracted COVID-19 at work, especially in a state like Florida where the number of cases are rising significantly every day and it has been argued that insufficient precautions are being taken to limit the virus’s spread.
As of this writing, Florida’s Division of Risk Management has stated that those “frontline” workers employed by the state will have their medical bills covered – but frontline workers are very specifically classified. The directive explicitly covers “law enforcement officers, government employed [EMTs] and paramedics, correctional officers,” and others specifically mobilized to fight the pandemic. If you do not fit into one of those groups, you may have a much more difficult time getting your claim covered. Contacting an attorney may be helpful in moving forward.
Call A Winter Park Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Workers’ compensation is designed to help ease the financial burden on you while you are injured or incapacitated, and COVID-19 certainly has the ability to incapacitate. If you are ill because of COVID-19 and have questions about workers’ compensation, contacting a Winter Park workers’ compensation attorney at the Hornsby Law Group can help answer some questions. Call our office today for a free consultation.