Impact of Covid-19 on Illinois Workers' Compensation Cases
For many workers, the prospect of suffering a work-related injury is an unfortunate fact of life when they go to work every day. For these employees, the workers' compensation system can provide them with financial relief when they are unable to work due to injuries sustained at work. COVID-19 presents an entirely new set of challenges when it comes to workers' compensation benefits.
Many first responders and essential workers, such as health care workers, public safety workers, delivery workers, and grocery store workers, place themselves at risk of getting sick every time they show up at work during this crisis. Now, they may be left without assurance that they will be compensated for the costs of their illness.
Workers' Compensation Industry Adjusting to Covid-19 Life
At the outset, we want to explain that there is no one uniform workers' compensation law for the entire United States. Each state has its own program that is run by its own rules and laws. Thus, there may be a particular result that occurs in one state that does not happen in another state.
Here, the relevant issue is whether exposure to COVID-19 is considered to be something that is compensable under workers' compensation laws. The best answer that we can give you is that it depends. Coronavirus is something that is so new and involves complex legal issues so we could not say for sure whether you would be covered.
Without some type of regulatory relief, you may have some issues in proving your eligibility for worker's compensation because you have contracted COVID-19.
Causation in a Workers' Compensation Claim Involving Coronavirus
One of the main hurdles ofor an injured worker is applying for benefits in the workers' compensation system is the fact that you must show that your injury was caused by your job. When you are dealing with a highly contagious virus, it may be difficult to show that you contracted coronavirus at work.
If you are able to prove this, you should be eligible for workers' compensation because exposure to a disease on the job qualifies as criteria that would qualify you.
This is no guarantee that an employee could make this showing when they applied for workers' compensation. This seems particularly unfair given the number of employees who have been deemed "essential workers." They are required to go to work and risk getting sick but are not guaranteed of receiving workers' compensation benefits if they do come down with the illness.
What is even more inequitable about the situation is that many states have rules that automatically qualify public safety employees for compensation if they are sickened by the virus.
These rules state that they are presumed to have gotten sick at work if they come down with something like COVID-19. However, other workers who are termed "essential workers" could possibly be left out in the cold.
States Implementing Regulations to Protect Sick Workers
Some states are recognizing the unfairness of the situation and taking measures to make sure that people who have to work through this crisis have the level of protection that they deserve when serving the public.
As the crisis unfolds, more states are taking steps to right this wrong and make it easier for those who are literally risking their lives to work to obtain workers' compensation for getting COVID-19 at work.
Illinois Approach to Workers' Compensation for Covid Claims
Thankfully, Illinois is one of the states that is stepping up to help its workers. Governor J.B. Pritzker did not even wait for the legislature to act to do something to protect the state's workers. He acted early and forcefully to give employees some assurance that they will receive workers' compensation coverage if they get sick on the job.
When Gov. Pritzker issued his Executive Order on March 20 that instituted the stay-at-home order, he included a provision that gave some protection to workers in the state. For these workers, the Executive Order eliminates any issues that these employees would have in establishing that work was the cause of COVID-19. Now, work is presumed to be the cause, removing a hurdle that workers would need to cross.
Note, that the Executive Order does not apply to every worker in the State of Illinois. It does provide protection to "frontline" workers. The definition of this term extends beyond just public safety employees. It could include those who work at essential businesses, including health care workers, grocery stores, and banks.
This is the same way that many states are dealing with the problem of causation. Depending on the laws of the state, governors are either issuing an executive order or the state legislatures are passing laws to extend a presumption that the essential worker contracted COVID-19 on the job.
Does This Mean That I can Get Workers' Compensation for Getting COVID-19 on the Job?
Possibly yes. It depends on what you do for a living. Even if you are not a frontline worker, you may still be able to file a coronavirus claim if you think you contracted COVID-19 at work.
For example, if you know of co-workers who exposed you to the virus while you were at work, that could be a step in the direction of proving causation. At this point, we do not yet know how difficult it will be to prove COVID-19 causation because claims are just being filed.
Why do I Need Workers' Compensation Benefits for COVID-19?
You may be out of work for a long time after getting coronavirus. First, you are going to have to remain quarantined for quite a while and will not be able to work. Second, you may not even fully recover from the illness because we are still learning about the long term effects of the virus.
Third, even if you have insurance, you could end up with significant out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 as health insurance companies have not necessarily covered all coronavirus related expenses.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC can assist you with your workers' compensation claim. We can help you with both your initial application and supporting documentation. In the event that your claim is rejected, we can represent you at a hearing where you can appeal to your rejection.
Even if you are not a frontline worker, there is no reason to not apply for workers' compensation if you believe that you got COVID-19 through being exposed on the job.