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Can You Claim Workers’ Compensation If You Were Exposed to Coronavirus at Work?

If you haven’t heard of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, you’ve probably been living under a rock. And if that’s the case, you may want to stay there. We’ve all heard stories about people getting quarantined on cruise ships or at hotels due to the fear of the disease spreading. You may have seen someone walking around with a mask covering their face while out at a store or at an airport.

COVID-19 symptoms may manifest anywhere between 2 to 14 days after you’ve been exposed.* Moreover, the symptoms can closely resemble the common cold or flu, so it’s important to stay vigilant with washing your hands and staying home if you feel unwell.

*According to the CDC, this is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS-CoV viruses.

What Happens If You Were Exposed to Coronavirus (COVID-19) or Another Dangerous Virus at Work?

Your work may have taken steps to help contain the spread, like asking employees to work from home and grounding all travel. But what happens if you were exposed to coronavirus at work anyway? What if your symptoms don’t show up until later? Does your employer have to cover your medical bills through their workers’ compensation coverage? Are you legally entitled to benefits if you can’t work due to the disease?

As with many things in law, there are no clear-cut black and white answers to whether an infectious disease contracted at work could be covered by workers’ compensation laws. In North Carolina, coverage for workers’ compensation injuries is divided into two broad categories:

  1. Injuries that occurred by an accident or sometimes a specific traumatic event (i.e. spinal injuries or hernias); and
  2. Those caused by an occupational disease

We focus on occupational diseases below, as it is the most directly related to a potential workers’ compensation claim for coronavirus.

North Carolina Workers' Compensation Occupational Diseases

North Carolina Workers’ Compensation: Occupational Diseases

In North Carolina, occupational diseases can be covered either by:

For example, certain conditions like asbestosis and silicosis are assumed to be occupational diseases in nature. They fall under a category that is listed and covered by state law.

Diseases that are not listed are only covered by workers’ comp if they are peculiar to a trade, occupation, or employment. The law goes on to exclude ordinary diseases of life when the public is equally exposed to the risk, like the common cold or flu.

COVID-19 is, for now, a relatively rare condition in the state, but there are already several confirmed cases in North Carolina. Exposure to the condition has been limited as those infected were told to self-quarantine in their homes. However, just because it is a rare condition does not mean it is an ordinary disease like the flu or a common cold.

Does the Nature of Your Work Put You More at Risk to Exposure to Coronavirus?

A person’s employment may put them in contact with the virus if they travel for work to an area where they are unwittingly exposed to other carriers of the virus. So if you travel for work and are exposed to coronavirus, do you automatically have a workers’ compensation claim? It depends. Simply being exposed in a work setting will not likely be sufficient for it to be covered under workers’ compensation laws. In North Carolina, for an injury to be covered by workers’ comp insurance, the person’s occupation would have to place them more at risk for contracting the virus than the general public. So you may want to ask yourself: Does the nature of my job place me more at risk of being exposed and contracting coronavirus than the general public? One large, and perhaps most obvious, example of a group that this may apply to is healthcare workers.

North Carolina Healthcare Workers, Coronavirus, and Workers’ Comp Laws

At the forefront of the battle against novel coronavirus, healthcare workers serve a vital role for diagnosis and treatment of the illness. Healthcare workers certainly would be a category of people who cannot avoid contact with a potentially infected person due to the nature of their work. We also know that more healthcare workers have contracted the virus than any other profession, and it has recently been reported that nearly 3,000 Chinese healthcare workers have gotten the coronavirus.

In North Carolina, simply being a healthcare worker may not be sufficient for employers to be required to extend coverage through workers’ compensation laws in the state. Even if a healthcare worker could prove that they were more at risk for contracting the disease, they would not necessarily be able to prove the claim.

A final element of proving you are entitled to coverage would be showing the work caused the condition. If a condition becomes commonplace, it is unlikely that you would be able to prove the condition arose at the employment. This may be a smaller hurdle due to the limited number of cases of coronavirus currently. However, it still could be a hurdle that would prevent a healthcare worker from obtaining necessary medical and disability coverage.

One fix for healthcare workers who are particularly at risk would be for the North Carolina legislature to mandate coverage for COVID-19 as a listed disease. It may be worth considering from a public policy standpoint to protect people who are placing their lives at risk to care for the injured and sick. Healthcare workers are in a demanding occupation with long hours and difficult jobs. Providing special protection for these workers would perhaps make sense given the nature of the risk we currently face.

NC Workers’ Compensation Lawyers: We’re Here for You

As we at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic, we also continue to serve our clients who were injured at work. We are committed to working with, and for, our clients, even as we remain vigilant of how this pandemic will affect our state.

If you were injured at work in North Carolina, please do not hesitate to call us at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us here.

Does Workers' Compensation Cover Long-Term Health Conditions?

Medical6_07232014Many people know that workers' compensation benefits provide for injuries that you sustain while on the job, but many are not clear about what workers' compensation law provides for long-term health problems believed to be caused by the job.

As North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyer Barry Jennings explains, North Carolina workers' compensation law does provide coverage for people who suffered a long-term health condition as a result of their work. This condition can be caused by an injury that resulted from the job, or it can be the result of exposure to harmful chemicals or conditions on the job. Some examples may include coal workers who developed the condition known as Black Lung Disease or industrial workers who developed the deadly cancer mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos.

As Jennings explains, the law determining whether a person is entitled to workers' compensation benefits for a health condition believed to be caused by working is fairly complex. Essentially, you must show that your work caused the specific condition and that it placed you at a higher risk for that condition than the general population. For example, Black Lung Disease is generally caused by exposure to coal dust, so workers in coal mines are at higher risk of developing Black Lung Disease. Coal workers who developed this illness would likely be entitled to workers' compensation benefits in North Carolina.

Other examples could include injury brought on by repetitive and stressful movement at work.

North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyers

A North Carolina workers' compensation lawyer at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin may be able to review the details of your case and give you advice about what your legal rights are and what compensation you may be able to receive for your injuries. If you feel you suffered a long-term health condition because of conditions at your work, call us today at 1-866-900-7078 for a free evaluation of your case.

Does Workers' Compensation only Cover Medical Bills?

Workers' compensation insurance may protect you if you are injured on the job, and as such, it may provide for much more than just your medical expenses.

As North Carolina Workers' Compensation Attorney Barry Jennings explains, North Carolina workers' compensation law provides for the payment of medical expenses and lost wages for those who qualify. Depending on the extent of your injury and how the injury occurred, you may be eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits to cover your medical treatment, as well as the time you missed from work.

Injury6_07182014If you suffer a permanent injury, or your injury is severe enough that you will no longer be able to earn the same wages you did before, you may be entitled to additional benefits under workers' compensation law.

The compensation you receive may be paid out by your employer's workers' compensation insurance carrier or by your employer.

North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyers

A qualified North Carolina workers' compensation lawyer can review the details of your case and advise you about what kind of benefits you may be entitled to under the law. If you have been injured on the job, call the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin at 1-866-900-7078 for a free evaluation of your case. One of our North Carolina workers' compensation lawyers may be able to help you get the benefits you may deserve for your injuries!

Under What Circumstances is a Person Eligible for Workers' Compensation in North Carolina?

Injury7_07182014Workers' compensation insurance protects workers in North Carolina in the event that they are injured on the job. However, employees must meet eligibility criteria in order to collect those benefits.

There are three types of situations in which employees can become eligible for workers' compensation benefits in North Carolina:

Workplace Accident

Accidents happen. When they happen on the job, your employer's workers' compensation insurance may cover you for injuries and other losses. Some examples may include a construction worker who falls off a ladder, or a delivery driver who is in a car accident. Accidents may occur in professions that don't seem prone to such dangers, as well. For example, a secretary may be burned by office equipment.

If the accident occurs on the job, you may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits in North Carolina.

Workplace Injury

Sometimes employees become inured just doing their jobs -- not as a result of having an accident. Some examples may include neck or back strain from repeated performance of the same task, or even joint strain such as in the shoulders, knees, or wrists.

Workplace Illness

Workers' compensation benefits may also be available if you become seriously ill as a result of your work. Examples may include exposure to toxic chemicals that contribute to the development of cancer, such as workers who were exposed to asbestos and later developed mesothelioma.

North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyer

There are many factors that can contribute to whether or not you receive workers' compensation benefits and to how much compensation you receive. A North Carolina workers' compensation lawyer can help you understand the law and how it applies to you.

If you have been injured on the job, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Call the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin at 1-866-900-7078 for a free evaluation of your case to find out if one of our North Carolina workers' compensation lawyers may be able to help you!

Contact Information

Asheville Law Office

300 Ridgefield Court Suite 309
Asheville, NC 28806
Phone: 828-552-8215
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Charlotte Law Office

301 S McDowell St, Suite 900
Charlotte, NC 28204
Phone: 704-599-1078
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Durham Law Office

280 South Mangum Street, Suite 400
Durham, NC 27701
Phone: 919-688-4991
Fax: 800-716-7881

Fayetteville Law Office

2915 Raeford Road, Suite 204
Fayetteville, NC 28303
Phone: 910-488-0611
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Goldsboro Law Office

1308 Wayne Memorial Drive, Suite B
Goldsboro, NC 27534
Phone: 919-731-2581
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Greensboro Law Office

300 N. Greene Street, Suite 850
Greensboro, North Carolina 27401
Phone: 336-665-7072
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Greenville Law Office

702 Cromwell Dr. Suite G
Greenville, NC 27858
Phone: 252-355-5205
Toll Free: 1-866-780-3227

Henderson Law Office

514 Dabney Drive, Suite 200
Henderson, NC 27536
Phone: 252-492-4600
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Morganton Law Office

216 N. Sterling Street, Suite B
Morganton, NC 28655
Phone: 828-219-3080
Toll Free: 1-844-520-2894

New Bern Law Office

1505 South Glenburnie Rd, Unit P
New Bern, NC 28562
Phone: 252-634-9010
Toll Free: 1-866-780-3422

Raleigh Law Office

4325 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 100
Raleigh, NC 27607
Phone: 919-834-1184
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Roanoke Rapids Law Office

709 Julian R. Allsbrook Highway
Roanoke Rapids, NC 27870
Phone: 252-537-9670
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Rocky Mount Law Office

144 Woodridge Court
Rocky Mount, NC 27804
Phone: 252-937-4730
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Sanford Law Office

703-B South Horner Boulevard
Sanford, NC 27330
Phone: 919-775-1564
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Wilson Law Office

2315 Airport Blvd Suite A
Wilson, North Carolina 27896
Phone: 252-246-9090
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Winston-Salem Law Office

301 N. Main Street, Suite 2409-C
Winston-Salem, NC 27101
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078