Why Florida’s Workers’ Compensation May Not Cover Your Work-Related COVID-19 Infection
In a directive issued on March 30, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis ordered workers’ compensation benefits to be provided to all state-employed frontline workers battling the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Patronis ordered the Division of Risk Management to approve workers’ comp claims filed by public sector emergency workers, including first responders, who become infected with COVID-19.
The directive will apply to frontline employees who work for the state of Florida. Meanwhile, private-sector employees may not receive workers’ comp benefits if they contract coronavirus at work.
The directive reads that Florida’s Division of Risk Management received at least 36 workers’ comp claims related to COVID-19 as of March 30. Florida remains one of the country’s coronavirus hotspots with more than 280 COVID-19 deaths as of April 7. According to projections by the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the state could see up to 11,200 deaths by June 19.
Employees Who Can Obtain Workers’ Comp Benefits During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Medical workers and first responders are at a greater risk of becoming infected with coronavirus, but their ability to obtain workers’ compensation benefits depends on whether they are paid by the state or a private entity.
Workers’ comp insurance covers an injured worker’s medical bills and some of their lost wages associated with the work-related injury. In some cases, workers’ comp also pays for rehabilitation.
Under the directive issued by Patronis, eligible government-employed “frontline workers” include those who are more likely to directly interact with infected individuals:
- Law enforcement officers
- Emergency medical technicians
- Healthcare industry workers
- Correctional officers
- Child safety investigators
- Florida National Guard members mobilized to respond to the pandemic
However, the directive does not cover similar workers in the private sector even though they are on the front line against the coronavirus disease, too. Glen Wieland, chair of the Florida Bar’s workers’ compensation division, told the Tampa Bay Times that the directive is “a good first step.”
He presumed that the next step could be to cover private-sector workers dealing with those infected with COVID-19. Currently, private insurers dominate Florida’s workers’ comp landscape for non-government employers. The state cannot force private insurance companies to cover claims related to coronavirus.
Does it Mean That Private-Sector Employees Cannot Receive Workers’ Comp Benefits?
But what about private-sector employees who are exposed to COVID-19 while performing their duties? Are they not eligible for workers’ comp just because they do not work for the government?
Not necessarily. If you are a private-sector worker who was infected with coronavirus at work, Florida’s workers’ comp insurance may cover your medical expenses and some loss of income if you can prove that:
- you contracted the virus in the course of employment; and
- your job put you at a heightened risk of becoming infected with COVID-19.
Doing so is challenging, which is why you may need help from a Tampa workers’ compensation attorney. Whether or not you qualify for workers’ comp will depend on whether you can actually prove that you contracted COVID-19 on the job.
For doctors and first responders, proving that they were exposed to coronavirus in the course of employment may be easier since they interact with sick patients and potentially infected people as part of their duties.
For those who are not medical professionals or first responders, proving eligibility for workers’ comp may be complicated unless there is convincing and undeniable evidence that you contracted COVID-19 at work.
Speak with our Tampa workers’ compensation attorneys at Kobal Law to investigate your particular situation. Our lawyers can prove help that you contracted coronavirus at work and that your job duties put you at an increased risk of catching the virus. Call at 813-873-2440 to schedule a consultation.