As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout Pennsylvania, many healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses, medical assistants, and emergency medical technicians, find themselves risking exposure every day when they go to work. Ideally, the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation system, and the insurance companies who make decisions to accept or deny these claims, will rise to the moment and provide the benefits that these workers need should they become sick after a workplace exposure.
Under Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law, a worker can become eligible for benefits including payment of medical bills and payment of lost wages, if they are injured or if they contract an illness while working. A workplace illness may be pursued under the portion of the Workers’ Compensation Act that governs occupational diseases or under the portion of the Act that applies to traditional injuries. The requirements to prove compensability differ between these two theories. The decision as to which theory to pursue will likely be very much dependent on the facts of the situation.
Of all Pennsylvania workers, healthcare workers likely have the strongest case for proving workplace exposure. Healthcare workers who have treated patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have worked within the same hospital or medical practice where patients have been diagnosed with COVID-19, will likely be able to successfully show that they have experienced a workplace exposure. A healthcare worker likely does not have to have direct contact with a patient who has tested positive for COVID-19 if it can be shown that they interacted with a coworker who had direct contact. In large hospital settings, one can imagine just how quickly a disease such as COVID-19 can spread, especially if the medical practices do not have suitable personal protective equipment.
While we can hope that an Employer and insurance carrier will do the right thing for workers’ compensation purposes and cover all workers who have been exposed and have been presumed positive for COVID-19, there may be other facts that will play a role in compensability of these claims. Workers’ compensation insurance adjusters will probably try to obtain information relating to any other potential exposures that an affected worker might have had including familial and social connections. If you believe you have symptoms and believe you have been exposed to COVID-19 at work, you should reach out to our experienced workers compensation attorneys immediately. We can help guide you through the process of properly reporting your alleged injury and how to make sure you are getting the testing and treatment you need as quickly as possible.