If you are wondering, “Can I sue my employer to get workers’ compensation for COVID-19?” you probably aren’t surprised to learn the answer is not a simple yes or no. There are obstacles as well as ways to overcome them, particularly if your employer didn’t take the recommended, reasonable safety precautions in protecting employees from COVID-19 and you contracted the virus.
For much of the pandemic, the focus on the dangers of COVID-19 infection at work was directed at healthcare professionals – doctors, nurses, and other healthcare support professionals. Of course, those individuals weren’t the only ones at risk. In fact, as the pandemic lingered, warehouse employees, distribution professionals, grocery store employees, and employees in other industries were faced with exposure to and infection by the novel coronavirus. If you contracted COVID-19 and feel your employer didn’t take the needed safety precautions to protect you and your co-workers, you might wonder if you can sue.
What you may not know is it can be challenging to successfully sue an employer outside of the realm of workers’ compensation because you got sick on the job. It can be equally difficult to get workers’ compensation benefits for COVID-19. In some instances, workers’ compensation laws disallow lawsuits against employers. In many cases, you will likely be limited to filing a workers’ compensation claim rather than filing a lawsuit. There is still a chance, though limited, that you can overcome all the obstacles and sue your employer.
Workers’ Compensation and COVID-19
Workers’ Compensation was enacted to ensure employees could get benefits for a work-related injury or illness, without the need to prove their employer was at fault. It also provides protections for employers who can’t be sued for additional losses (including pain and suffering) as a result of an employee’s illness or injury (known as the exclusive remedy rule).
This means that if you file a workers’ compensation claim for COVID-19 against your employer and it is denied because you cannot prove you contracted the novel coronavirus at work, you will not be able to sue your employer for losses. This provision is also applicable in limiting wrongful death lawsuits by survivors of employees who died as a result of a work-related illness or injury.
There are few exceptions to this rule. These exceptions include cases in which your employer did not provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage, instances in which your illness was caused by a third party, and if you were injured or became ill due to your employer’s intentional wrongdoing (not just negligence).
In some states, workers’ compensation doesn’t apply to infectious diseases, which means the exclusive remedy rule might not prevent a lawsuit against your employer if you contracted COVID-19 while on the job.
Does Intentional Wrongdoing Apply if an Employer Failed to Protect Workers from COVID-19 Exposure?
In some states, employees have filed lawsuits against employers due to the increased risk of COVID-19 exposure. The employees stated that employers failed to follow reasonable safety guidelines to diminish the hazards associated with the novel coronavirus.
This failure may have included not providing adequate PPE (personal protective equipment, i.e. face masks, plexiglass barriers, etc.) for the workplace or failing to establish social distancing measures. Also, failure to clean and sanitize the workplace including high-touch points, prohibiting employees from wearing their own PPE or staying home when ill.
While these are intentional actions, the intentional wrongdoing exception does not necessarily apply. It may not always apply even in states which recognize it because intentional wrongdoing has limitations.
Finding the Answers to Your Legal Questions About COVID-19
If you were infected with COVID-19 on the job, and you believe your employer did not provide the needed safety precautions to protect you and your coworkers, call on the experienced, professional workers’ compensation attorneys at WorkInjuryRights.Com™. The legal landscape continues to evolve regarding the coronavirus pandemic, and you need an attorney who can help you navigate the process, clearly explaining your options in relation to any losses you suffered as a result.
At WorkInjuryRights.Com™, you’ll find expert attorneys who can ensure the protection of your rights and help you get the compensation you deserve. Call today and get the information and guidance you need.