The COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic has impacted many different aspects of life throughout the country, including the workplace. Each type of employer and employee has had to make changes to ensure the safety of workers and customers. But if your employer doesn’t do enough to keep your workplace safe, can you hold them responsible with a COVID-19 lawsuit?
Figuring out your legal rights in this type of unprecedented situation can be tricky, but the skilled coronavirus attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP can help. If you believe that you or a loved one contracted COVID-19 on the job and you’d like our team’s legal perspective on coronavirus, call 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER. We’ll provide a free legal consultation to help answer any questions you may have.
Is COVID-19 a Compensable Injury Under State Workers’ Compensation Laws?
The answer to whether COVID-19 qualifies for worker’s compensation is complex and varies by state. Generally, in order for an employee to qualify for workers’ comp, most states require proof that an injury occurred at work, stemmed from a single act, and was caused by the employment. Many state statutes governing workers’ compensation exclude “ordinary diseases of life” such as colds or the flu. Even in industries where there is a high probability of exposure, such as the health-care industry, it can be difficult to prove under state workers’ compensation laws that the virus was caught at work, so it’s unlikely to be considered a workplace injury.
However, each state approaches COVID-19 legal claims for workers’ compensation differently, and specific rules applicable to the coronavirus have been put in place in some states. If you believe you may be eligible, the best thing you can do is to consult a coronavirus workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss the specifics of your case. A workers’ comp lawyer for coronavirus claims will be knowledgeable of the state laws in your area and be able to analyze the specifics of your case to determine whether you qualify.
Is COVID-19 an Occupational Disease?
Maybe. An “occupational disease” is described as any disease that is contracted through risk factors arising from one’s work activity. Occupational disease claims are analyzed differently from other workers’ compensation claims because they are not the result of a single event that caused an injury. An occupational disease requires a work-related exposure that had a harmful effect on the employee, and there must be a link that can be medically diagnosed between the exposure and the harmful effect on the employee.
When a workers’ comp administrator examines the conditions of employment, they are usually looking for exposure to chemicals, toxic substances, fumes, noise, vibrations or radiation. However, in at least 19 states, there is a “rebuttable presumption” standard for some careers, such as firefighters and other first-responders. This means that people in those occupations who contract certain illnesses are presumed to be covered under workers’ compensation due to their routine exposure to things like smoke and toxic gases. Employees may be able to claim a rebuttable presumption in their COVID-19 lawsuit against an employer if they have a high probability of exposure to the coronavirus in the course of their work. Even so, it can still be difficult to prove that an employee contracted the disease on the job and there is still a chance of being denied under most existing workers’ compensation schemes. You will definitely need the help of a talented coronavirus workers’ compensation lawyer from a firm like Parker Waichman to move forward with a COVID-19 lawsuit against an employer.
Coronavirus Guidance and Legislation
If you plan to talk to an attorney to get coronavirus legal advice, it’s important to make sure the lawyer is knowledgeable about local laws and how those laws have changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the rules surrounding coronavirus legal issues vary widely from state to state. For example, in New York, pending legislation would create a rebuttable presumption that impairment of health caused by COVID-19 was incurred during duty for certain police, parole, and probation officers and other emergency responders. And in Florida, the Office of Insurance Regulation issued Informational Memorandum OIR-20-05M to remind employers to provide coverage to first responders, health-care workers, and other workers who contract the virus through work-related exposure, a requirement outlined in CFO Directive 2020-05. These different state regulations and mandates are why it’s important to talk to a knowledgeable attorney about your potential coronavirus lawsuit, so you can make an informed decision about the best course of action.
Other Common COVID-19 Legal Questions
Can You Sue Someone for Knowingly Giving You COVID-19?
It is possible, but very difficult, to sue someone for reckless endangerment if COVID-19 is transmitted intentionally. In cases where threats are made to transmit the coronavirus and the individual then coughs on you or takes a similar action to transmit the disease to you, you may be able to sue; however, these cases are very difficult to win. You must prove that the person who threatened or coughed on you is definitively the one responsible for giving you COVID-19, and that is very difficult to prove.
Can You Sue a Business for Giving You COVID-19?
Yes, you can sue a business for giving you or a loved one COVID-19. This can be a bit easier to prove than proving that an individual gave you COVID-19. Businesses that have made no effort to limit interpersonal contact or that violate state and local guidelines can be liable for reckless endangerment. This is particularly true of companies that run nursing homes. COVID-19 has taken a devastating toll on nursing homes all over the nation, and individuals who got sick in these settings may be able to hold these businesses liable for negligence, as the people living there likely had very little contact with people outside of these facilities.
Can You Sue Someone for Getting COVID-19?
It’s not likely that you could sue someone for contracting COVID-19. Fear of catching the illness from them is not enough to warrant a lawsuit. The prevalence of the disease further complicates such a claim: With a disease so contagious that’s spread through so many communities, it’s nearly impossible to prove the chain of transmission from one specific individual to another.
Can You Sue the Government for COVID-19?
It’s possible. With a patchwork of local and state laws governing much of the COVID-19 response, whether or not you can sue a government for its actions during the pandemic will vary from place to place, and so will the basis of such suits. For instance, a Brooklyn school is suing the heads of the Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC. The lawsuit over COVID-19’s spread claims that the federal government neglected to carry out its obligations to prepare for and respond to the pandemic. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, a class action against the state government has been filed on behalf of business owners challenging the closure of their businesses by executive order. Whether or not any of these claims will succeed is unclear at this point. If you’re considering filing a COVID-19 lawsuit against a government entity, your best course of action is to speak with an experienced lawyer who can evaluate your claim and help to determine whether you have a strong case.
Get Help With Your COVID-19 Lawsuit Today
The knowledgeable lawyers at Parker Waichman can provide the coronavirus legal help you need, and we’ll do so for free with no obligation. Just call our law firm and our personal injury attorneys will take the time to talk to you about your situation, get all of the details and facts about your case, and examine the latest coronavirus legal guidance in your state to determine how these rules affect your claim and potential settlement. Then, we’ll advise you on whether you should file a coronavirus lawsuit to seek compensation.
Call 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529) or fill out our online form today to get a free, confidential consultation with our attorneys.