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Workers’ Compensation Benefits & Lawsuits Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic


2020 started off rocky with fears of World War 3 among political superpowers and massive wildfires raging across Australia. Before the tension from those crises could be assuaged, though, a new global concern took centerstage and has not moved: coronavirus, also called COVID-19.

With more than 115,000 confirmed cases across the globe and more than 4,200 deaths caused by it, COVID-19 has been officially declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). As the infection spreads across the globe, so does confusion, concerns, and legal complications. In particular, small businesses and large multinational corporations alike are bracing for all sorts of potential lawsuits, including those filed by consumers, clients, and workers who contract the novel coronavirus due to their job.

Princess Cruises Slapped with $1 Million Passenger Lawsuit

Princess Cruise Lines is perhaps the first major company to feel the pressure of lawsuits originating from coronavirus scares. The company recently attempted to quarantine passengers aboard the Diamond Princess in Japan and the Grand Princess in San Francisco, California. The quarantine efforts have been harshly ridiculed as poorly handled and ineffective after hundreds of passengers contracted COVID-19 in quarantine, including some in Japan who passed away shortly after being released.

A Florida couple who were aboard the Grand Princess when it was quarantined has since sued Princess Cruise Lines for negligence, demanding more than $1 million. The couple claims they have been significantly traumatized from the experience and now live in fear of being diagnosed with COVID-19. It is not known at this time if either member of the couple has shown any coronavirus symptoms, though.

The odds of the couple’s lawsuit prevailing are unknown, but the case does serve as a clear warning to employers everywhere. If seemingly inadequate virus protections are provided to consumers, then they can and will sue.

Courier Companies Offer No-Contact Deliveries

Coronavirus has struck right as the gig economy started to take off, which many gig jobs being related to courier services. Companies like DoorDash and Uber Eats make it easy to bring food right to your door by using their mobile phone apps. But are they bringing coronavirus to your door, too?

In response to the COVID-19 scare, many food delivery apps are offering no-contact delivery options. Customers using the app can check “no-contact” if they want their food left at the doorstep. The in-and-out delivery method could theoretically protect customers and workers alike from avoidable COVID-19 exposure.

Many food-runners for such apps are skeptical that no-contact delivery will be effective, and many want more done to protect them. Some want medical masks and gloves supplied to them to add further protections. Others want better health insurance coverage in case they do catch the coronavirus and need to miss days or weeks of work.

Can Coronavirus Validate Workers’ Comp Benefits?

Another concern among workers in all industries is whether or not getting the coronavirus could justify receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Most workers’ compensation insurance policies do allow claimants to file if they contract an occupational illness or a disease that they encounter due to their expected job duties. Occupational illness workers’ comp claims are usually filed by medical providers, like nurses and doctors who must see ill patients.

Does that mean only medical professionals could file for workers’ compensation if they contract coronavirus? Not necessarily. The disease has formed into a pandemic that is putting entire countries on lockdown and that is predicted to infect up to 70% of the entire global population. Anyone who goes to work in any profession could essentially be put at risk of crossing paths with someone carrying the virus. Leading health professionals believe the virus can be carried unknowingly for weeks before it shows symptoms while also still being contagious.

To protect their employees – and possibly try to limit the potentiality of workers’ compensation claims – many companies have issued “work from home” mandates. Anyone able to stay home and keep working should do so to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.

Disability Leave for Coronavirus Patients

Workers’ compensation law as it is written in most states would make it difficult to seek workers’ compensation benefits due to contracting the novel coronavirus at work. A claimant would be challenged to show not only that it was contracted in their workplace — it is spreading across borders and out of attempted quarantines, so its origin would be difficult to prove — but also that it was contracted due to you fulfilling your work duties. Simply showing up to work where someone might be sick likely does not validate a workers’ comp claim.

However, some workers may be eligible to receive temporary disability benefits if they are diagnosed with COVID-19. Many insurance companies and employers are already in the works to expand disability benefits coverage specifically to coronavirus cases in an attempt to keep the sick and diagnosed out of the workplace and quarantined in their own homes.

Ask an Attorney About Workers’ Comp & COVID-19

The coronavirus spread has infected nearly 700 confirmed patients in the United States, as of the time of this writing. Its prominence does not add anything to legal clarity concerning workers’ compensation, though. The situation is developing unpredictably, and official guidelines or rules could be announced tomorrow or the next week.

For the time being, if you have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and you think you contracted it at work, then you should speak with a workers’ compensation lawyer about whether or not you should seek workers’ comp benefits. They can provide insight and guidance about what to do next and if your claim should be pursued.

In Orange County, California, where five confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been announced by health officials, people can count on Alvandi Law Group, P.C. Our Orange County coronavirus lawsuit attorneys are actively researching the situation and how it pertains to workers’ compensation. We would be happy to hear from you if you need legal guidance or support during this confusing time.

Dial (800) 980-6905 or contact our law firm online to get a free consultation.

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