Any California employer with one or more employees is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage. An employee becomes eligible for workers’ compensation benefits when he or she is injured in the course of their employment by an anticipated and foreseeable rise of that employment. Those rules don’t just cover injuries either. They also contemplate occupational illnesses. Let’s put that in the context of a construction worker who is alleging that he was contaminated by the COVID-19 virus while on the job at a construction site in Sacramento where a 20 -floor office building is being constructed. He has been tested, and he’s positive for the virus. Does he have a meritorious workers’ compensation claim? That would be doubtful.
The Current Numbers:
As of March 25, 2020, there are 113 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Sacramento County. Five people have died. They were all either above 70 years of age, or they had underlying health conditions. Those numbers could increase drastically in the next two weeks. Given current containment efforts, the number of confirmed cases might also be reduced.
The Two Barriers:
There are two significant hurdles that the construction worker must overcome.
First, he’s required to prove that the illness arose from causes that are characteristic of his trade or place of employment. Then, he must also prove that the nature of his work materially contributed to becoming infected with and suffering from the COVID-19 virus. In the construction trades, unlike roofers or plumbers developing asbestosis, there is nothing characteristic or peculiar to any of them that would materially contribute to COVID-19 contamination. His claim would be doubtful and highly disputed.
Health Care Workers:
Doctors, nurses, therapists and just about anybody else who works at a hospital are at a much higher risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus. In the New England Journal of Medicine, one Italian doctor wrote that hospitals might be a significant source of COVID-19 infections. That’s because they’re becoming rapidly populated by COVID-19 patients who transmit the virus to uninfected patients and employees. Hospitals recognize this danger. It has become medically and legally foreseeable, and they’re working hard at preventing transmission. The two occupational disease hurdles mentioned in the preceding paragraph are now lower for those who are employed in health care facilities, especially if they work with patients who are infected with the COVID-19 virus. It’s far more foreseeable that a COVID-19 infection will be transmitted to a health care worker working with infected patients than to a construction worker on the 11th floor of an office building under construction.
After surviving COVID-19, there is strong evidence that some health care workers suffer permanent lung damage. As per California workers’ compensation law, that likely qualifies as a compensable permanent partial disability. Employers will often try to negotiate a lump sum amount of compensation for permanent partial disability after a disability rating is issued.
Foreseeability in any COVID-19 workers compensation case must be evaluated on a case by case basis. Given the course and scope of a health care worker’s employment, he or she is far more likely to become infected with the COVID-19 virus than an electrician or a sheet metal worker. You can still expect the Department of Industrial Relations to be flooded with claims.
Sacramento Workers Compensation Lawyer:
In almost all cases when someone is injured on the job, the worker will get the best possible outcome by hiring an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.
Attorney Alice A. Strömbom focuses exclusively on Workers’ Compensation Law. She is very familiar with the tactics insurance companies use to avoid providing the medical treatment and disability benefits injured workers deserve, and has a recognized track record in combating such issues.
Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation and case evaluation.