COVID-19 & Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Casey, Devoti & Brockland

Legal & Safety Blog

by Matthew Devoti

Just over a month ago, the St. Louis area received its first reports of local COVID-19-related illness.  By March 23, local leaders executed so-called “stay at home” orders, directing residents to stay in their homes except for essential activities.

St. Louis-area residents have generally followed orders.  Non-essential workers have set up shop in their homes, students work around the kitchen table, senior citizens shop during off-peak hours and local roads and highways are quiet.  Yet, life in out-state Missouri remains much as it did in late February.  As of today, Missouri’s governor has not issued any order directing folks living outside the metropolitan areas to stay at home.

In the meantime, reports of COVID-19 illness throughout Missouri increase.  Many of our clients live outside St. Louis City and County.  We’ve received a handful of calls in the last two weeks inquiring as to a worker’s rights should the worker receive a diagnosis of COVID-19 following exposure to an ill person in the workplace.  The answer to those inquiries is not straight forward nor compact.

First the basics

Missouri law protects workers injured as a result of their work with three benefits:

(1) the medical care necessary to treat the consequences of the injury;

(2) a partial wage for that time the worker is unable to work because of their injuries;

(3) a lump sum payment for any partial disability ultimately resulting from the injury;

These benefits exist without regard to the body part injured, the way in which the injury occurs, and whether a co-worker intentionally or negligently caused the injury.

However, to be compensable, work must be the prevailing factor in causing the injury.  That requirement demands the injured employee show that something specific to her work caused or contributed to cause the injury.  In other words, the injured employee must show that she would not have been injured, but for the existence of some condition specific to her workplace.

In the past, we have successfully prosecuted Workers’ Compensation claims involving respiratory illness.  These cases followed an employee’s exposure to an unique aspect of the environment in which they worked – such as a technician working in a hospital lab with formaldehyde and its fumes and a laborer who cut concrete causing dust particles to be thrown into the air. In these cases, we showed evidence linking the worker’s illness to a condition specific to their workplace – a condition separate and distinct from their life outside the workplace.

Making a claim related to COVID-19 would be a challenge.

Infected people walk around us at home, in our communities and at work, often without showing symptoms.  To successfully bring a claim, an employee diagnosed with COVID-19 must show not just an exposure to the virus in the workplace but, that the exposure in the workplace caused her illness.  Also, the worker would most probably also need to show that she wasn’t exposed to the virus outside of work.  Evidence suggesting that the exposure could have just as easily occurred at church, while grocery shopping, while taking an evening walk or some other essential business would prove devasting to the claim.

If you are a first responder, healthcare worker or are working on the front lines of an essential business and you contract COVID-19, making a Workers’ Compensation claim may be difficult.  However, your best course of action is to consult an attorney well-versed in Missouri and Illinois Workers’ Compensation laws.

About the firm

Casey, Devoti & Brockland is a St. Louis-based law firm focused exclusively on personal injury litigation.  Since 1983, our attorneys have helped injured people navigate the road to recovery by securing compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses and lost wages.  Together Partners Matt Casey, Matt Devoti and Anne Brockland have nearly 50 years of trial experience handling the following personal injury matters:  car, truck and train crashes, victims of impaired and distracted driving, medical malpractice, birth injuries, JUUL and e-cigarette litigation, product liability, premises liability, elder and sexual abuse, Workers’ Compensation and wrongful death.  We proudly serve clients throughout metropolitan St. Louis, southeastern Missouri and southern Illinois.

Our highly accessible attorneys deliver the perfect balance of aggressive legal representation, compassion and personal service.   If you or a loved one have been injured by the negligence of another, call the office today for a free, no-obligation consultation: (314) 421-0763.

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