Can I Get Workers’ Compensation If I Got Coronavirus at Work?
Ryan Zavodnick | March 31, 2020 | Workers' Compensation
The pandemic of COVID-19 has taken over the world and put many businesses in a precarious position. Do they continue to open and have workers come in or should they close in an attempt to help stop the spread of the virus?
For some essential industries, shutting down is not an option. If you are still required to work, you may be wondering what will happen if you are exposed to or get the coronavirus at work. Can you get workers’ compensation for this? Though illnesses contracted at work are generally covered, it may be hard– or even impossible– to prove you got COVID-19 at work.
What is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are not new. They are a type of virus that can cause sickness in humans including different types of colds. There are many different types of coronavirus. A new type of this virus, COVID-19, was recently identified and is currently spreading around the world. The virus appears to have originated in China in December 2019 where the first reported person became ill.
COVID-19 appears to be stronger than other types of coronavirus. It also seems to spread faster and be more deadly. The incubation period is around 14 days. This means that people begin to show signs of the virus within 14 days of being exposed to it. Symptoms include fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. More severe symptoms are trouble breathing, confusion, persistent pain, and a bluish face.
The death rate of COVID-19 is still being determined. This is because the virus is still active and spreading. It does seem to be more deadly than the flu but the exact percentage of fatalities cannot be accurately calculated until after the current breakout of the virus is contained. It does seem to be more deadly to those that are over the age of 60 and for those that have other pre-existing conditions.
Workers’ Compensation Basics
Workers’ compensation is an insurance program that is required by the state. It provides benefits to any employee who becomes sick or injured while on the job. Generally, any worker can get some sort of compensation for any injury or illness that they get that is work-related. This could mean payment of medical bills, disability payments, rehabilitation, or retraining.
Each state differs in how it handles workers’ compensation and what is necessary to prove that you require its benefits. In Pennsylvania, workers’ compensation services are administered by the state’s Department of Labor and Industry. It offers protection for both employees and employers who are injured or become ill from work-related circumstances. They may be compensated for medical bills and lost wages.
Can I get Workers’ Compensation if I got Coronavirus at Work?
The short answer for this is: possibly. The nature in which you caught the virus must be work-related. This means that it more than likely needs to be shown that you got the illness by exposure at work. If you were exposed through your child or in public, you will not be able to seek workers’ compensation.
Pennsylvania law might consider exposure to and sickness from the virus as either an injury or an occupational disease. Occupational diseases are identified in the PA Workers’ Compensation Act. There is a stipulation that other diseases not listed in the Act may be considered, especially if they occur often in specific industries or jobs. An example of this would be an infectious disease live COVID-19 spreading to medical workers in a hospital.
The state also claims that any exposure to COVID-19 that is work-related and that results in getting sick and developing an illness would more than likely be considered a work injury. This means that the employee may claim workers’ compensation rights if they get sick on the job from an exposure that requires medical attention or time away from work.
How do I Claim Workers’ Compensation for Coronavirus?
In Pennsylvania, you have 120 days to report to your supervisor if you have been exposed or diagnosed with COVID-19 and if you believe your illness is work-related. Your employer is required to report your claim to their insurance company immediately after you make it. The insurance company then has 120 days to either accept or deny your claim. If it is denied, you do have the right to file a claim petition that appeals this decision.
Remember, it is important to take precautions to minimize the spread of the virus if you have been exposed or diagnosed. This includes self-quarantining at home for 14 days, alerting others of your possible exposure, and seeking medical help if you develop more serious symptoms. These precautions should be followed regardless of where you were exposed to COVID-19.