Over the course of the last month, I have fielded numerous questions regarding the efficacy of filing a workers’ compensation claim in the state of Ohio when you have been diagnosed with Covid-19. At the beginning of the outbreak, my thought was that it would be incredibly difficult to prove how someone would have contracted the virus. And furthermore, if you cant prove definitively how a person contracts it, then by what means do you have to prove a workers’ compensation claim. Who is to say an individual wasn’t infected by a family member or a friend that had nothing to do with their work-related activities?
In Ohio, in order for a workers’ compensation claim to be valid, a person must be doing something that puts them at a greater risk than the general public is at. This is especially true when you are dealing with occupational disease claims. Traditionally we think of occupational diseases (OD) like asbestosis or silicosis when discussing OD claims. However, those traditional claims are becoming a thing of the past as building materials contain less and less asbestos and coal mining has declined in Ohio. Instead, there is a new batch of more common OD claims… carpal tunnel can be an OD claim, and we recently were successful getting a claim granted for job-induced scleroderma. Once we begin to think of Covid-19 not just as a viral infection, but as a compensable injury, the question becomes who qualifies rather than is it compensable?
The average person who works in an office building or even an attorney will almost assuredly not qualify for worker’s compensation benefits should they contract Covid-19. But I firmly believe that any doctor or nurse in a healthcare facility (that could be a hospital, doctor’s office, nursing home, or aftercare facility) WOULD qualify for a workers’ compensation claim in Ohio. The percentage of healthcare workers contracting Covid-19 is at such a higher rate than the general public that the presumption should be it was contracted at work. However, it does not stop with those healthcare workers previously defined… it extends to first responders, including firefighters, police officers, and EMTs. I would also argue that it should extend to grocery store employees who have no choice but to continue their employment with the general public. Where the line is will be tough to define.
A real fight is coming between employers and injured workers when it comes to Covid-19 infections. Make sure you have an experienced law firm on your side. Willis Spangler Starling is here to guide you through. Don’t hesitate to call us at 614-586-7900.