Florida and other states across the country appreciate the first responders who have been placing their lives on the line during the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, some of these workers get infected with the coronavirus, and some die due to this exposure. For professionals working in such a hazardous environment, there’s an associated level of stress that you might contract the infection and probably infect coworkers, family, and friends.
If you contract COVID-19, you might wonder if you can file a Workers’ Compensation claim. Here is what you need to know.
You can get Workers’ Compensation
On April 9th, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation issued an informational memorandum to insurance agencies and other entities authorized to offer Workers’ Compensation Insurance. The memorandum offered guidance on the treatment of all policyholders affected by the coronavirus.
It reminded all regulated entities that Florida State law requires all employers to provide Workers’ Compensation insurance if any of the workers suffer compensable damages arising out of duties executed in the course and scope of their job. Health workers, first responders, and other workers who contract coronavirus due to work-related exposure will be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits.
According to the memo, all insurance companies licensed to offer Workers’ Compensation policies in Florida are required to apply this statutory requirement on a non-discriminatory basis. The Office of Insurance Regulation expects the insurers to comply with the provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Law and will take the right action in case of non-compliance.
You can find the special rule for COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation in the Chief Financial Officer Directive 2020-05. These rules apply to state frontline workers only. So, they don’t apply to workers in the private sector, though the directive may be instructive for how insurers should handle Workers’ Compensation claims in the private sector.
These rules cover the state workers who work directly with the public in various roles such as healthcare workers, emergency responders, police officers, and family protective services investigators. In this case, the burden to prove that the employee was infected in the line of duty is on the Florida State. So, if you are a frontline worker and you contracted COVID-19, you can seek Workers’ Compensation benefits.
Are these Rules Different?
The Workers’ Compensation guidelines in the CFO Directive 2020-05 have changed the burden of proof. In many occupational injuries or illness claims, the employee has the responsibility to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that they got injured or contracted the illness at work. If the disease is common to the general public, this burden is particularly challenging. You must prove that you are more susceptible to the disease because of the nature of your official duties.
However, the recent directive places the burden of proof on the Florida State. To get Workers Compensation benefits, you must prove that you have coronavirus, incurred medical expenses, or lost work. The state can accept the claim or deny it. In the case of denial, the state will have to prove that you didn’t contract coronavirus from work. It appears the role of establishing a connection between work and damages or illness has been reversed.
If you got COVID-19 at Work…
Do you suspect you got exposed to COVID-19 at work? Report this matter to your employer as soon as possible. You will be assisted in filling out the relevant paperwork to make an accurate report. Also, you will get tested immediately. This is an essential part of the medical evaluation process.
It would be best to consult with an experienced Workers’ Compensation attorney who can help you file your claim. The expert can also help you document your exposure to COVID-19 at work.