COVID-19 has pinned the safety of our health against the security of our finances. We have to work to pay our bills, but working could expose us to someone who has the virus. This catch-22 has people asking, “Will worker’s compensation cover me if I catch COVID?”
The answer to this question is not as simple as it should be.
Worker’s Compensation Law
Worker’s compensation laws provide employees with compensation for work-related injuries. This includes “occupational diseases” that an employee is exposed to while at work. However, most states (including Missouri and Kansas) preclude “ordinary diseases of life,” the equivalent of the common flu or cold, from worker’s compensation. These clauses, when paired with the U.S. government’s inability to categorize the perplexing COVID-19 disease, has created a gray area with worker’s compensation claims.
Arguably, certain occupations (such as healthcare workers) risk being exposed at a higher rate. Whether or not COVID-19 is compensable has still been uncertain in many cases, even with healthcare workers.
Each state has its own laws pertaining to worker’s compensation and occupational diseases and illnesses. In Missouri, Section 287.067.1 RSM and in Kansas, 44-5a01 , provide the basis for occupational disease claims. In order for COVID-19 to be considered an occupational illness or disease that is covered by worker’s compensation, certain factors must be met. Most importantly, the illness or disease must have originated during the course of employment.
Furthermore, the occupational disease must be the “prevailing factor” that causes the employee both the medical condition and the disability. But if you continue to read the Missouri worker’s compensation laws further you’ll find that Section 287.067.7 clearly states that employees who contract a contagious or communicable disease as a result of their work are eligible for benefits.
One more caveat that worker’s compensation throws into the pandemic confusion is the level of risk. The workplace must pose an increased risk of the illness or disease to the employee than the employee experiences outside of the workplace. This might be the most difficult aspect to prove in a case.
Give Us a Call
Since worker’s compensation and COVID-19 presents an evident gray area, hiring a workers compensation lawyer to represent you for your worker’s compensation claim is in your best interest. Our firm will take the stress of your claim off of your hands so you can focus on recovering from COVID-19. Contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free consultation.