Coronavirus is making the workplace a more dangerous place than ever before. The public is now well aware that the virus is transmitted by person-to-person contact. For employees who have direct contact with the public, the workplace can be particularly risky.
If you have a job that requires working with the public, or even if you have contact with coworkers, you may be worried about contracting Coronavirus at work. If you contract COVID-19 while working a frontline job, you might wonder if workers’ compensation applies. Our Tampa workers’ compensation attorneys answer the most frequently asked questions regarding Coronavirus and workers’ compensation.
Can I get workers’ compensation if I get COVID-19?
You may be able to get workers’ compensation if you get COVID-19. Generally, Florida’s workers’ compensation laws exclude common illnesses and diseases. However, these diseases may be covered for employees who are significantly more likely to get them because of their employment. For workers who must be exposed to the public during the COVID-19 crisis, they may be able to show that they are uniquely at risk and, therefore, deserving of workers’ compensation benefits.
I have COVID-19 and I believe I got it at work. How do I get workers’ compensation benefits?
It’s not entirely clear whether your workers’ compensation claim will be honored for COVID-19. The general rule is that the illness or disease has to result from a particular job-related hazard. Florida law 440.151(2) says that ordinary diseases of life are excluded because they are things that everyone in the general public is exposed to at any time.However, Florida law leaves open a window for coverage that may apply in Coronavirus cases. Florida law says that where the risk of illness is higher for an employee than it is for the average member of the public, workers’ compensation may be available. For employees who must continue to have contact with the public during the Coronavirus crisis, they may very well be able to meet the criteria. Also, the fact that the State of Florida is extending workers’ compensation to their employees who contract the virus may weigh in favor of private-sector employees seeking coverage.
What benefits can I receive through workers’ compensation for a COVID-19 diagnosis?
Through workers’ compensation for a COVID-19 diagnosis, you can receive all of the same benefits that are available in all workers’ compensation cases. You can receive full coverage of your medical treatment costs. Replacement wages are another essential part of your compensation. If you suffer permanent physical injuries and loss of use of bodily functions because of COVID-19, there may be additional compensation available.
I am a state employee. Are there any special rules in place for me for COVID-19 workers’ compensation?
Yes. If you are a state employee, it may be easier for you to get workers’ compensation for COVID-19 than private-sector workers. The Florida Department of Financial Services Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Directive 2020-05 instructs the Division of Risk Management to process COVID-19 cases for frontline state employees. The state is honoring COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims for frontline state employees unless the state can show that the employee contracted the illness outside of the course of their employment.
Who counts as a frontline state worker who is covered by CFO Directive 2020-05?
Frontline state workers who are covered by Directive 2020-05 include police officers, first responders, corrections officers, state healthcare employees, child safety investigators and active national guard members. Private sector workers are not included. Generally, government employees of municipal subdivisions are not covered unless they fall under the state employee workers’ compensation system.
How do I make a workers’ compensation claim after contracting COVID-19?
You would make a workers’ compensation claim for COVID-19 in the same way as all other kinds of workers’ compensation claims. You need to report the injury to your employer as soon as possible. Your employer should provide information about the necessary steps to finalize your report and document your losses. You also have the right to work with a workers’ compensation attorney of your choice.
How long do I have to claim workers’ compensation based on a COVID-19 diagnosis?
You have 30 days to report contracting COVID-19 to make a workers’ compensation claim. The 30-day period starts when you realize that your illness is work-related. The best plan is always to report the COVID-19 diagnosis and make a claim right away.
Are the workers’ compensation laws for COVID-19 the same in other states as they are in Florida?
No, workers’ compensation laws for COVID-19 are not the same in other states as they are in Florida. The states are slowly coming out with their own directives for how COVID-19 cases are going to be covered. Some states have been resolute in saying that they expect Coronavirus cases to be covered for employees who have contact with the public. Other states are leaving plan administrators to interpret existing state laws. The current rules in place in the State of Florida should be seen as authority only in Florida.
Can I still get workers’ compensation for COVID-19 if I didn’t wear my personal protective equipment?
Yes, you may still get workers’ compensation for COVID-19 if you didn’t wear personal protective equipment. However, the amount that you receive in compensation may be reduced. If your employer gives you personal protective equipment to wear, and you don’t wear it, your claim may be reduced by 25 percent. Florida law 440.09(5) says that if your injury is because of refusing to observe a safety rule or use a safety device, your workers’ compensation claim is reduced by 25 percent.
What can I do if my COVID-19 workers’ compensation claim is denied?
If your COVID-19 workers’ compensation claim is denied, you have a right to appeal the decision. You have the right to representation from a Florida workers compensation attorney. You have only a limited amount of time to file an appeal.
How can a COVID-19 workers compensation attorney help me?
A COVID-19 workers compensation attorney can help you strategically build and report your case. They know what you need to meet the criteria for compensation. Because COVID-19 workers’ compensation cases are first-impression cases for the State of Florida workers’ compensation system, it is especially important to present a thorough and accurate claim. A trained workers compensation attorney has the experience that you need to present the best possible case.
For more than 37 years, personal injury lawyer Jack G. Bernstein has protected the rights of individuals who have been injured in a variety of circumstances. Mr. Bernstein is a member of the Florida State Bar Association, the Hillsborough Bar Association and the Clearwater Bar Association.
The information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.