During the Coronavirus pandemic, millions of Americans are practicing social distancing and self-quarantine. However, there are also millions of Americans who are putting their lives on the line. Whether you work in healthcare, you’re a first responder or you work at a grocery store, frontline employees take a risk each day when they report for duty.
If you get sick with COVID-19, you may feel sure that you contracted it because of your work. You might naturally wonder if your employer is liable as a result. In Florida, the answer is not completely clear at this time. The laws are still changing and developing. Just as the Coronavirus is new, Florida worker’s compensation claims relating to the virus are being decided for the first time. Our experienced Tampa personal injury attorneys can help determine whether or not you have a case.
State Employees – Employer Liability for COVID-19 Workers Compensation Claims in Florida
In Florida, employees are usually eligible for workers’ compensation for COVID-19 infection if they are state employees in frontline positions. State of Florida employees, including police officers, EMTs and other frontline workers, may receive workers compensation protections if they contract COVID-19. That is because the State of Florida officials issued a directive stating that the cases should be covered.
There is a presumption, for state employees, that their contracting the virus is work-related. For these employees, the claim proceeds through the worker’s compensation system with the same rights and benefits as any other covered case.
RELATED: Workers’ Compensation Laws in Florida and Coronavirus (COVID-19)
COVID-19 Employee Liability and Non-State Employees
For employees who do not work for the State of Florida, the question of employer liability for COVID-19 claims is still not clear. Traditionally, Florida workers’ compensation laws do not cover ordinary, common illnesses. However, the novel Coronavirus is anything but ordinary.
Before the COVID-19 crisis, it was widely known that there is no employer liability for the cold or flu. Illnesses like common colds were seen as a hazard of daily living. However, there are several characteristics of the Coronavirus pandemic that are different from typical colds and the flu.
Proving You Got COVID-19 at Work
For example, there was never a way to prove that you got sick with previous flu seasons and the common cold. Even if you have a lot of contact with the public in your work, you still go to other places, too, and it’s hard to know where exactly you got sick. However, with the Coronavirus crisis, widespread stay-at-home and quarantine orders may mean that employees can track the source of their illness. Employees in specific jobs may be able to show that they have higher rates of contracting the virus than the general population.
When employees can track the spread of the virus, they may have a claim for employer liability. Proving higher than normal infection rates among workers in the same occupation may be critical to winning the case. Alternatively, being able to show exposure risks solely at the place of employment may also provide proof of employer liability for COVID-19.
There are several types of employment in which the employee may be able to win workers compensation for a COVID-19 illness:
- Grocery store workers
- Delivery drivers
- Truck drivers
- Food supply chain workers
- Healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses, nurse’s aides and support staff
- Restaurant employees offering to-go food
- First responders like police, EMTs and firefighters
Right now, you may not have exact numbers about illness rates. You may not know how to go about proving your case. We invite you to contact us for a free consultation with our Tampa COVID-19 employee liability attorneys to discuss your situation. We work to help deserving people build their cases and pursue all legal avenues for compensation.
Legal Liability If You Contract COVID-19 At Work
If you contract COVID-19 at work, there may be a possibility that your employer is liable. However, you have the uphill battle of proving that your exposure is work-related. Because you can’t see a virus, this may be a daunting task. It may not be possible to show exactly how you contracted COVID-19. However, it is possible to detail your whereabouts and potential exposures. But even then, proving exactly how you catch a virus can be difficult.
You may be able to prove your case by showing the prevalence of the virus among people in your occupation. Ordinary diseases of life are excluded under Florida law. However, if your profession has above average rates of COVID-19 infection, you may be able to show that the virus is not just a common disease. It may take a great deal of evidence and tedious detail to prove the case, but an attorney for COVID-19 employer cases can help you build the evidence you need.
Third-Party Liability for Getting Sick With COVID-19 on the Job
Exploring third-party liability is another option. A worker’s relationship with their employer falls under the State of Florida workers’ compensation system. However, that’s not necessarily your only option if you work with a third-party. If you contract COVID-19 because of a vendor, contractor or another third party, there may be a traditional negligence claim available to you. A negligence claim should be evaluated separately from a workers’ compensation claim against an employer.
Can I Win a COVID-19 Case Against My Employer?
The laws are still changing as they relate to COVID-19 and employer liability. While it may be possible to win a COVID-19 case against an employer, it’s not going to be an easy task. Winning a claim requires understanding the State of Florida workers’ compensation laws and compiling the evidence to meet legal standards.
It is not known at this time how the insurers and the courts will handle COVID-19 worker’s compensation claims. What we do know is that our legal team is committed to fighting for the rights of all Floridians. You have the right to representation from an attorney of your choice. Our Tampa attorneys are experienced and can handle the complexities of new and novel cases. We fight for your rights to the fullest extent of the law.
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Our COVID-19 Employer Liability Attorneys
If you’ve contracted COVID-19, we invite you to have a free and confidential consultation with our Tampa legal team to talk about your rights and your options. With a personalized consultation, you can understand the law and how it impacts your specific circumstances. If you bring a claim, we will help you fight for the justice that you deserve. Contact us today.