by Jacob Brandt | May 03, 2020 | In the News
Ohio workers’ compensation allows for injuries such as occupational diseases and illnesses. This then begs the question: do I have a claim if I am exposed to COVID-19 at work?
Factors to take into account:
The question of whether an individual who contracts COVID-19 can receive workers’ compensation benefits is heavily fact specific question. To put it simple it depends on how you contracted the disease and the nature of your occupation. As on can surmise, the Ohio Workers’ Compensation system does provide benefits for individuals who contract an occupational disease. Ohio Revised Code Section 4123.01 (F) specifies that an occupational disease is a “disease contracted in the course of employment, which by its causes and the characteristics of its manifestation or the condition of the employment results in a hazard which distinguishes the employment in character from employment generally, and the employment creates a risk of contracting the disease in greater degree and in a different manner from the public in general.”
To put it simply, an occupational disease is any disease that is a specific hazard or risk associated with a specific form of employment that an individual holds. For example, the job of working as a coal miner carries the specific risk and hazard of developing Pneumoconiosis, more commonly referred to as coal miner’s lung. A coal miner is able to show that by virtue of the work they do they were at a greater risk to develop Pneumoconiosis as compared to the general public. As such when an individual who works in the coal mining industry develops Pneumoconiosis, they are able to receive workers compensation benefits on the basis of a compensable occupational disease.
So, with COVID-19 the question becomes for an individual seeking benefits, did the job that they held during the contraction of the virus put them in a position where they were at greater risk of contracting the virus as compared to the general public? Say we have two individuals, both of whom have contracted COVID-19, one of those individuals works as a nurse in the intensive care unit at a major hospital and the other is a tech support provider working from home. They both want to seek workers compensation benefits for the disease.
The nurse working in the intensive care unit certainly has a stronger argument when asserting that they contracted the virus as a result of having to work. The individual working in tech support from home will have a tougher time proving that their job put them at a greater risk of contracting the disease when compared to the general public. The intensive care nurse can show that their job carries the hazard or risk of getting the diseases in a greater degree or a different manner than the general public by virtue of the fact that as a part of their job they are required to be around those who have the virus.
States reacting differently:
Many states have taken steps to ensure that individuals working on the front lines to combat the global pandemic have unfettered access to workers compensation benefits. Some states have gone as far as passing legislation that provides a presumption that if an individual working on the front lines contracts coronavirus, while responding the pandemic, their illness is related to their employment. Unfortunately, Ohio has not yet passed any such legislation and therefore in Ohio claims are being dealt with on a case by case basis.
Here is an interesting story out of Cleveland on work related concerns: Coronavirus already sparking workers’ comp claims.
If you have been diagnosed with the COVID-19 ask yourself “did my job put me at greater risk of getting this disease?” If the answer is yes then you may have a valid claim for workers compensation benefits. If you are contemplating filing a workers’ compensation claim for COVID-19 do not hesitate to contact workers’ comp attorneys with over 50 years of experience at The Bainbridge Firm for assistance seeking those benefits. We can provide you all the assistance you need in order to prove your claim.
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