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Can You Get Workers’ Compensation if You Get COVID-19 in New York?


The coronavirus is still rapidly spreading throughout the United States. New York, which was considered the epicenter of this deadly disease, is still seeing many cases. So far, there have been 413,000 cases in the state, with more than 32,000 deaths.

Many people are contracting COVID-19 through the workplace. This is especially true for health care workers, who often do not have sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) when they treat patients.

Workers’ compensation laws allow for workers to receive benefits when they become injured or sick during the course of their employment. So what happens when they contract COVID-19? Do these rules still apply?

It depends on the state. Workers’ compensation is governed by each state, so what is covered and not covered will depend. Generally speaking, employees are eligible to receive compensation and medical benefits if they are injured or ill in the workplace. In New York, the law covers “accidental injuries arising out of and in the course of employment” and “disabilities sustained or death resulting from any and all occupational diseases.”

This begs the question: is the coronavirus an occupational disease? It seems as though under the current law, most workers can receive workers’ compensation benefits if they are infected by COVID-19. However, obtaining these benefits is not always easy. There are, of course, hurdles in place.

For example, COVID-19 would, surprisingly, be considered more of a workplace injury than an occupational disease. This is because occupational diseases are more specific in nature and are not general, like the coronavirus, which can affect anyone in any occupation. Also, prior history shows that courts typically do not deem infections that occur in the workplace as occupational diseases.

However, there is one exception: when healthcare workers are affected. There was a case in 1978 when the court ruled that a nurse who was diagnosed with tuberculosis after being exposed to a patient who had the disease suffered from a qualified occupational disease. According to the court “the work exposure to which all nurses are subjected is sufficient to meet the essential tests of occupational disease.”

However, two things must be proven before an ill worker can claim workers’ compensation benefits. First, a person must prove that the illness occurred during the course of employment.” For example, did a known patient or co-worker have the disease? Also, a disease must “be assignable to something catastrophic or extraordinary.” This may seem like an impossible bar to reach, but all it means is an accident or mishap, such as someone sneezing on someone or an infection getting into a cut.

Contact Us for More Information About Workers’ Compensation Benefits

The laws related to COVID-19 and workers’ compensation can be tricky. While it’s pretty clear that health care workers are eligible to obtain benefits, not all workers who get coronavirus on the job will be able to get compensation.

Workers’ compensation applies to illnesses that occur in the workplace. The coronavirus should be no exception. Protect your legal rights with help from White Plains workers’ compensation lawyer Michael Lawrence Varon. Schedule a free consultation with his office today. Call (914) 228-1770 or fill out the online form.


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