Can I Get Workers’ Compensation If I Got Coronavirus At Work?
Attorney Brian White | March 30, 2020 | Workers Comp
Yes, you may be able to get workers’ compensation if you get coronavirus at work. However, some circumstances may make getting compensation difficult or even impossible. You will need to prove that your injury or illness is work-related. If it is not, you cannot get coverage. You must also be employed by a company that has workers’ compensation benefits and insurance.
Workers’ compensation is insurance that employers pay for. It is there for employees to help them cover costs if they are injured or become sick while working. In some cases, the injury and illness only need to be work-related and do not necessarily have to happen on the worksite. It is not work-related if you are exposed to the virus at home and you become ill. You will not be able to get compensation for this.
Federal employees and the military are governed by federal laws. All other workers’ compensation benefits are state-regulated. Some states require all employers to obtain workers’ compensation insurance plans. However, this is not required and a state can choose to not have employers cover their employees in case of workplace injuries or illnesses.
The purpose of workers’ compensation benefits is to limit litigation. Injured workers can receive compensation for medical bills and lost wages. They may also be eligible to get disability payments if their injury or illness needs long-term care. In some cases though, litigation may still be relevant and needed. This is especially true if you find yourself sick and employed at a company that does not take workers’ compensation seriously.
Coronavirus and COVID-19
Coronaviruses are not new. They are a type of virus that can cause several different sicknesses including several strains of the common cold. They are also responsible for more serious and newly discovered illnesses like the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that was discovered in December 2019 in China.
COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that is also a severely infectious disease. Many individuals who are infected recover without medical intervention. However, some patients develop serious symptoms that can lead to extended hospital stays or even death. Mild symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. More serious symptoms are trouble breathing, bluish lips or face, confusion, or persistent pressure or pain in the chest.
To slow the spread of COVID-19, many businesses have shut down or slowed production. Both federal and state leaders have urged Americans to stay home and to only go to work if you are essential. However, there are many interpretations of what is an essential worker. You will more than likely be called to work if you are in the medical field and are a doctor or a nurse. You may also be called to work if you are employed by a grocery store, gas station, daycare, or if you have any other possible essential work duty.
Texas worker’s compensation and the coronavirus
In Texas, worker’s compensation is handled by the Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC). Texas is a state that does not require employers to obtain workers’ compensation insurance. Employers can decide whether they want to have an insurance plan in case a worker gets injured or sick on the job. If they chose to be covered, they can purchase it through private insurance companies or they can self-insure if they meet certain requirements.
You cannot file a claim for benefits if you work for a company that does not have workers’ compensation insurance. This is true even if you have proof that you were exposed to COVID-19 at work and got sick because of it. However, the state of Texas encourages all employers to subscribe to the Texas Workers’ Compensation System. If your employer is not a subscriber, you may be able to take your employer to court to have them compensate you for your work-related injuries or illness related to COVID-19.
The Texas Department of Insurance suggests several steps to take if you get the coronavirus at work. First, let your doctor know that you were exposed to the virus and that you have symptoms. If it is an emergency, go to the ER. Remember though, your doctor may tell you to not get tested and to quarantine for up to 14 days. While doctor’s orders may be enough to get some compensation, it will be better for your claim to get tested and have proof that you had a positive result for COVID-19.