Can you collect workers’ compensation benefits for COVID-19?
The coronavirus pandemic has hit Pennsylvania workers hard in many ways, and many are concerned about being exposed to the virus on the job. Some work in a hospital, supermarket, warehouse or other type of workplace that has not been temporarily closed. Others may have been exposed to the virus at another workplace before the shutdown order.
A co-worker may have become sick and tested positive. Now you are feeling ill. You need treatment and need to stay home. More and more workers are finding themselves in this situation and want to know if they can collect workers’ compensation benefits if they are exposed to the virus at work.
The answer is yes, but it can be complicated.
What should I do if I’ve been exposed at work?
In Pennsylvania, the state workers’ compensation system is set up to help workers who suffered a work-related injury or illness. COVID-19 from workplace exposure is generally considered an injury, though it could also be considered an occupational disease, depending on the type of work you do.
If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 that you believe is related to your job, you should notify your employer immediately. Your employer and its insurance company then have 21 days to decide if you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. If your claim is accepted, you will begin receiving benefits. These benefits include full coverage of your medical expenses and two-thirds of your average weekly wage while you are out.
Employers and insurance companies can challenge your claim, however. They may not believe your illness is related to your job. This is where it can get complicated, and it’s why you need representation from an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
What is the appeals process for workers’ compensation benefits claims involving COVID-19 exposure?
You can file a claim petition with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to appeal your denial of benefits within three years. A workers’ compensation judge will then schedule a series of hearings. In time, the judge will make a ruling on your case.
This can take time and may now take even longer than usual. On March 16, 2020, state offices in Pennsylvania were ordered closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Temporary telephone hearings are being conducted so the judges can maintain hearing schedules.
How can a lawyer help me with a workers’ comp claim?
COVID-19 is a new threat to workers. The workers’ compensation system is still dealing with the claims and issues related to it. Being represented by an established workers’ compensation attorney who is familiar with the claims process and how COVID-19 claims are being handled can make a big difference.
The attorneys at Vellner Law, PC have been proudly serving injured workers in Allentown, Bethlehem and throughout Lehigh Valley since 1991. We know the judges here and what information they want to see in these types of cases. We have also been closing monitoring developments with COVID-19 and how it has been affecting workers.
This is no time to go it alone. If you feel you were exposed to coronavirus at the workplace, contact us soon as possible to schedule a free consultation with one of our workers’ compensation attorneys.