The workers that help the sick, keep us fed, drive buses and delivery services, and care for elderly in nursing homes are hailed as heroes in the media. But when it comes to coverage for them when they become sick from Covid-19, workers’ compensation may let them down, according to a recent article in The Hill (COVID-19: Essential workers deserve workers’ comp).
Workers’ compensation in Wisconsin is over a century old. It is a system designed to take care of workers hurt or killed on the job. Employers provide insurance to cover injured workers’ medical treatment, payment of lost wages and death benefits while workers forfeit their right to sue their employer. The system works well for traumatic injuries when somebody slices their hand or gets hit by an I-beam. However, when it comes to illness by disease, the claims are more difficult to prove.
Wisconsin legislators enacted a “presumption” that a frontline health care worker or first responder who gets Covid-19 is covered. However, the presumption is “rebuttable” meaning that the employer or insurance carrier can contest their entitlement to workers’ compensation by presenting evidence that the illness was contracted outside work. As we discussed in another blog, the comprehensive questionnaire given to Covid-19 victims indicates that insurers will try to deny the claim by asking about travel in or outside the United States, trips to the grocery store or a retail shop where exposure to a clerk occurred, or restaurants and even (especially) whether Covid-19 was in the home from another family member.
Some legislators on a national scale have indicated that if you are an essential worker and you get sick, disabled or die from the virus, you and your family are covered because of the presumption of work-relatedness, which should not be rebutted.
As “shelter in place” restrictions are relaxed, Covid-19 claims are sure to rise. Be sure to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney if you contract Covid-19.