Can I get workers' comp or workers compensation if I have been diagnosed with Coronavirus Covid-19?
The answer is that we do not know. We DO know that if you contracted an "occupational disease" that the ordinary public is exposed to, that you cannot be entitled to workers compensation benefits. But Georgia law defines "occupational disease" as a disease that arises "out of and in the course of the particular trade, occupation, process, or employment in which the employee is exposed to such disease." (OCGA 34-9-280) This Coronavirus does not "arise out of" a particular trade or occupation. So, it is a disease, but not what I would argue is an occupational disease.
Common examples of occupational diseases would be occupational asthma, mesothelioma (from asbestos exposure), eczema (from chemical exposure). If the workers' compensation Board determines that Coronavirus is an "occupational disease" then there are no benefits payable because of the exclusion in our law (OCGA 34-9-280) stating that it cannot be "an ordinary disease of life to which the general public is exposed." Most likely, the Board would find that Covid-19 is a disease to which the general public is exposed.
However, there are certain circumstances where I think a case could be proved under workers compensation. The example would be an ICU worker (nurse, doctor or other care provider) who contracts Covid-19 because they are exposed to patients coming into the hospital for treatment of the pulmonary disease caused by the virus. Another example might be a nursing home worker or a delivery driver. The key, I think is, if they can identify some specific facts that made them more likely to contract it. If they can, we may have a case.
If you or a family member has been impacted by Covid-19 and believes it was contracted because of their work environment, then please call us at 404-596-5518 to talk about it. We will not charge you for the consultation.
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