Does Workers’ Compensation Cover COVID?
COVID-19 has claimed the lives of at least 883,000 American lives at the time of this writing, according to the New York Times. Some studies suggest that the death toll from COVID is, in fact, even higher, at around one million, as reported by the Guardian. Of the people who get sick and survive, which is the vast majority of cases, many have experienced long term harm to their health, such as:
- A cough that persists for months
- Lack of taste and smell
- Permanent lung damage
- Permanent neurological damage, organ damage, damage to eyesight, hair loss
- Loss of focus and attention
The above list is just a sampling of the negative health impacts that can affect those who were infected with the virus.
If you got sick from COVID, even if the severity of your illness was not life-threatening, you may still be eligible for financial compensation from your employer through Wisconsin’s workers’ compensation system. Certain employees are eligible for COVID-19 related damages covered by workers’ comp, including lost wages and medical care.
A Wisconsin workers’ compensation lawyer can answer all of your questions regarding workers’ comp and COVID, and help you determine your eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits.
Eligible First Responders and Essential Workers
The following essential workers are eligible for workers’ compensation if they get COVID on the job:
- Other medical workers or people who work in hospitals
- Certain volunteer workers
- Police officers
- Other law enforcement
Unfortunately, not all workers who get sick with COVID are eligible for Wisconsin workers’ compensation. Notably missing from the above list include teachers, grocery store workers, and child care workers. These three occupations have been hard hit by COVID. However, just because you do not see your occupation listed above does not mean you are not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
Wisconsin Act 185
Wisconsin Act 185, which is retroactively effective to March 12, 2020, enables first responders and other essential workers to seek workers’ compensation benefits if they contracted COVID on the job. In order to be eligible, you must meet the following criteria:
- You contracted the virus during the course of your employment (the presumptive rebuttal clause may negate this requirement—see below).
- Your illness is diagnosed by a physician positive COVID-19 test.
- You contracted COVID between April 17, 2020, and up to 30 days after the Public Health Emergency Executive Order ends.
Workers Who Contracted the Virus Before April 17, 2020, Can Still Seek Benefits
If you are a first responder or another essential worker who contracted COVID before April 17, 2020, workers’ compensation benefits may still apply to you. However, there will be no presumption that you contracted COVID at work.
This presumptive clause works as such: Certain first responders and other essential workers who contracted COVID are presumed to have contracted COVID through the course of their employment. As such, they do not have to prove that they contracted COVID at work.
But for those workers who got COVID before April 17, 2020, there is no such presumption. And, their employer’s health insurance carrier has the right to require evidence that they got COVID at work. This can be difficult to prove but is not impossible.
What Does Wisconsin Workers’ Compensation Cover?
Wisconsin workers’ compensation covers partial wage replacement while you are out of work, plus full medical care, including future medical costs. The duration that you receive wage replacement depends on the severity of the injuries caused by COVID. Wage replacement can be:
- Temporary partial disability—You are only partially injured and can complete some level of work, and the injury is suspected to be temporary.
- Temporary total disability—Your injury is completely disabling, meaning you cannot complete any level of work, but it is suspected to be temporary.
- Permanent partial disability—The injury is permanent, but you can complete some degree of work.
- Permanent total disability—The injury is permanent and you cannot do any work at all.
Examples of Partial and Totally Disabling COVID Injuries That May Also Require Medical Care
There are at least 50 long-term symptoms of COVID. These symptoms range from moderate to severe. Many require hospitalization and ongoing treatment after discharge. There is no cure for many of these long-term effects.
COVID can damage the nervous system and physical structures of the human body. According to the Mayo Clinic and research published in Nature, the following is a list of long-term symptoms of COVID:
- Long haul syndrome (also called long COVID)
- Lung damage and decreased lung function
- Heart damage
- Sleep apnea
- Sleep disorders
- Intermittent fevers
- Hearing loss
- Blood clots and resulting complications, particularly to the lung, liver, and kidneys
- Guillain-Barre syndrome (temporary paralysis)
- Multisystem inflammatory syndrome
- Renal failure
- Organ failure and organ damage
- PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other emotional injuries
- Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
Many COVID survivors suffer more than one of these symptoms for months on end, or permanently. Not only does this severely impact the patient’s quality of life, but it can cause extreme financial hardship as well. Workers’ compensation can help alleviate some of this.
What to do if You Get COVID
It is imperative that you take the following steps as soon as you get COVID-19:
- Get tested. It is crucial that you have a positive test to prove that you are ill. If you test positive with a rapid at-home test (antigen test) make sure that you go get a PCR test at a facility for further documentation that you are indeed positive for COVID.
- Notify your employer that you are sick.`
- Seek medical care if needed. Do not delay treatment if you are seriously ill. Many COVID patients arrive at the hospital too late, when permanent lung or neurological damage has already been done.
- Put all of your medical documents in a safe, organized place.
- Reach out to an attorney.
Reach Out to a Wisconsin Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today For Help
If you got COVID on the job it is in your own best interest to seek legal assistance with your workers’ compensation benefits claim. Contact the Wisconsin workers’ compensation attorneys at Gillick, Wicht, Gillick & Graf today for a free consultation. We can help deliver the results you need.