Workers’ compensation claims based on exposure to COVID-19 on the job are likely to become more common over the coming months.
In the midst of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, essential workers are required to remain on the job. Many positions require contact with the general public, putting workers at a higher risk of contracting the virus. Workers’ compensation benefits are designed to help those who become sick or injured on the job. More than a month into the pandemic, the first claims for workers’ compensation benefits are now being filed by workers in Oklahoma but obtaining benefits is proving difficult.
Workers Face Exposure to COVID-19 on the Job
An April 26, 2020 report by The Oklahoman states that the first claims for workers’ compensation from employees infected by the coronavirus are now being filed. The fact that these cases are happening in Oklahoma puts our state at the center of what is likely to be a larger national issue in the months ahead.
The two workers’ compensation claims recently filed were on behalf of a food service worker at a Tulsa college and a local paramedic. The first fell ill after providing meals to students who remained on campus. He went to the hospital in mid-March, tested positive for COVID-19, and died four days later. His wife claims that she and her husband had been strictly adhering to stay home orders, obtaining any needed supplies online. She claims the school was the only place her husband could have been exposed and that administrators failed to take the proper precautions.
The second case involves a paramedic who transported people exhibiting coronavirus symptoms. She became infected herself and required hospitalization. After being put on a ventilator, she eventually recovered but is now unable to walk. In both cases, workers’ compensation claims have been denied.
Your Rights to Workers’ Compensation in COVID-19 Claims
The Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) provides reimbursement of medical expenses and lost wages for those who become sick or injured on the job. It also provides funeral expenses and other benefits for the family members of workers whose injuries or illnesses prove fatal.
One of the key issues with COVID-19, or any occupational illness or injury, involves proving it occurred as a result of your job rather than due to other activities. In general, the Oklahoma Statutes prohibit compensation for any ‘ordinary disease of life’. However, COVID-19 is named as a new or ‘novel’ virus and the circumstances surrounding the pandemic are anything but ordinary. As a result, there may need to be revisions to state laws and workers’ compensation guidelines to accommodate workers impacted.
Our Tulsa, OK Workers’ Compensation Attorneys are Here to Help
If you are an essential worker who has contracted the coronavirus, BDIW Law is here to help you get the benefits you deserve. Request a consultation to discuss your case and call 918-728-6500 or contact our Tulsa, OK workers’ compensation attorneys online today.