If you believe you caught the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) while at work, can you claim workers’ compensation for lost wages and medical bills? For state employees working on the front lines of Florida’s pandemic response, the answer is yes.
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis has ordered the Division of Risk Management to fulfill claims made by public servants who contract COVID-19 due to work-related exposure.
“If we’re going to ask our public servants to fight this pandemic on our behalf, they have to know we’ve got their backs if they get sick,” Patronis said in a statement.
The workers named in Patronis’ directive include paramedics, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, law enforcement officers, correctional officers, child safety investigations, members of national guard, and healthcare workers who directly interact with those infected with the coronavirus.
Workers’ compensation is insurance that pays for an injured worker’s medical bills and some of their lost wages as they recuperate, as well as rehabilitation in some cases. Most states require employers to pay into a fund that benefits employees who are injured on the job.
Florida is among a growing number of states to announce that some essential workers will be covered by workers’ compensation if they contract COVID-19 on the job. Lawmakers in Minnesota also recently passed a bill to change the state’s workers comp requirements to make it easier for essential workers to make claims related to the coronavirus.
What about non-government employees?
Grocery store workers, warehouse workers, delivery drivers, and other essential workers in the private sector who can’t work from home are unfortunately not covered by Patronis’ directive, and they may face challenges if they apply for compensation.
In Florida, private insurance companies handle workers’ compensation for non-government employers. According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance, the state is not allowed to mandate that insurance companies cover claims such as those for the coronavirus.
So, what can an infected non-government worker do? Document every single thing. If you believe you were exposed to COVID-19 at work, then your employer’s insurer will require you to prove you contracted the illness at your workplace, or that your work put you at increased risk of infection. Keep all your documentation and make sure you notify your manager. Having that information ready could be helpful in the future if Florida’s lawmakers make a change in the law regarding compensation for coronavirus.
This likely won’t happen any time soon, but keeping your own records of those you interacted with, from healthy family members to a coworker who was infected, may end up helping your case later. It may not be conclusive proof, but it could prove helpful once the dust settles and lawmakers start to consider policy changes to workers’ compensation laws in reaction to the pandemic.
South Florida Workers’ Comp Fraud Attorney
Is your business accused of workers’ compensation fraud? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation with one of South Florida’s most experienced workers’ compensation fraud attorneys.