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Seasoned Sacramento Injury Attorneys

Can I Get Workers’ Comp if I Contract COVID-19 on the Job?

Everything has changed since the pandemic started. We’re beginning to see a slow return to normalcy, but many questions still remain. Are lockdowns good or bad? How do we deal with the economic impact of the outbreak? What happens to workers?

Worker safety has been a big concern. Not everyone has the luxury of working from home, and not everyone has the option to work with a small group of people. Jobs that used to be considered low-risk, like working in a grocery store, have become high-risk. How much protection can a worker expect these days? Workers’ compensation is an insurance benefit. As such, there are many factors to consider in any workers’ comp claim, especially regarding illnesses.

Workers’ Compensation Guidelines Vary

There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to workers’ comp. Each state has its own guidelines, and those guidelines can change even within the state. Compensation is generally based on the dangers inherent to a particular job. For example, someone who works with dangerous chemicals may have cancer coverage in their plan, whereas office workers might have coverage for carpal tunnel syndrome.

Illnesses and Workers’ Comp

Generally, it’s difficult to pin transmissible illness onto any given job. The problem is this: How can we be sure that someone contracted a cold at their work? If a virus is going around, you could have picked it up from anywhere. It’s doubtful that workers’ compensation is going to cover you when you get the sniffles.

This leaves a quandary regarding COVID-19. If you contracted it, where did you get it? As contagious as the virus appears to be, you could have gotten it from walking your dog in the park. Workers can point to lockdowns and claim that the only human interaction they get is from work. This is a valid argument.

However, we all know that insurance companies want to avoid paying for anything they can. Regardless of any particular state’s lockdown regulations, insurance companies are going to have their own agenda. Since the employee can’t directly link their infection to work, insurance companies will probably deny their claims.

State Responses to COVID-19

To date, there have been no nationalized responses to the COIVD-19 pandemic. While some parts of the Union are still shut down, other parts were never shut down. There are even more inconsistencies for workers’ compensation. As we’ve already stated, it’s hard to prove that you got the virus from work. This is even more difficult when your state has remained open.

Since no one can trust insurance companies to do the right thing, regulating workers’ comp has become the government’s responsibility. Through various methods – executive orders, memorandums, policy changes, etc. – states have altered benefits.

For the most part, states have made these alterations based on their lockdown responses. States that have remained open, for example, tend to offer benefits to healthcare workers who contracted COVID-19. That coverage extends to essential workers in other states. There are some places that will provide coverage to those who can prove that they contracted the virus at work, but evidence like that is hard to find. Finally, there are states who haven’t offered any workers’ comp to people suffering from COVID-19.

California’s Response

On May 6, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order. In it, he extended workers’ compensation benefits to everyone who contracts the virus. There are some stipulations, but they are very broad and very inclusive.

Requirements for COVID-19 workers’ compensation benefits:

  • You must have tested positive within 14 days of being at your job.
  • You must have tested positive on or after March 19, 2020.
  • You must have been at the job itself. The 14 days do not include days you were working from home.
  • You must have an official diagnosis from a certified health professional.

California has been far more generous than many other states with these mandates. The reasoning is that if you had to go to work, you should be protected.

If you have questions or concerns about a workers’ comp claim, schedule a free consultation with us. Our number is (916) 571-0400, and you can contact us online.