Unfortunately, the pandemic is raging on. It appears, in fact, that the world might be experiencing a second wave of virus infections. The countries that were able to bring down infection rates to relatively low numbers during the summer months have numbers that are disturbingly going back up. In the United States, it appears that we are on an upward trajectory to another, third, peak in virus infections.
That means that those who are essential workers, such as first responders, medical professionals, and grocery workers, are still at greater risk of contracting the virus. So, the question arises – are Covid-19 infections covered by the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act?
You may assume that if you contract the virus while you are at work, then you should be covered by workers’ compensation and that your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance should kick in under the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act. Yet, that is not always the case.
In this article, we will discuss the circumstances in which Covid-19 is covered by the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act, talk about what the official word is in the State of Florida, and then talk about how that is being carried out in practice. If, after reading this article, you have additional questions pertaining to your own personal circumstances, then we invite you to contact the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act law firm in Jacksonville, FL – RITE Law. Our number is (904) 500-RITE or you can fill out our contact form online. Remember, we provide a free case evaluation, so call today.
The Complexity Behind Coverage for Covid-19
Generally speaking, workers’ compensation insurance does not cover routine community-spread illnesses like a cold or the flu. That is because those illnesses cannot be concretely tied to a person’s workplace. Some states in the country have made exceptions for chronic illnesses, like cancer, that may result from workplace exposure to harmful chemicals or other toxic environments. In fact, in some states, respiratory illness for firefighters and first responders was presumed to be caused by the person’s work and therefore eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
The Covid-19 pandemic, however, has caused some confusion with regard to the workers’ compensation question. Thus, there has been a less-than-uniform response to how workers’ compensation benefits should be made available to essential workers. Even though jobs that were not once considered hazardous – grocery workers and mass transit workers, for example – come with a high risk of Covid-19 exposure, it is not entirely clear whether a Covid-19 infection would be covered by workers’ compensation.
The State of Florida’s Official Word on Workers’ Comp and Covid-19
Back on April 6, 2020, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) issued a memorandum to provide workers’ compensation guidance to all insurers regulated by the OIR with regard to Covid-19. The memo provides that Florida Statute requires
An employer to provide workers’ compensation coverage if the employee suffers a compensable injury arising out of work performed in the course and scope of employment. First responders, health care workers, and others that contract Covid-19 due to work-related exposure would be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits under Florida law.
Insurers licensed to provide workers’ compensation coverage in Florida are reminded of this statutory requirement, which must be applied on a non-discriminatory basis. The OIR expects workers’ compensation insurers to comply with all of the provisions of Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law and will take appropriate action in the event of non-compliance.
That is good news for essential workers. It means, in a nutshell, that workers’ compensation benefits should be provided to those workers who contract Covid-19 during the course of their work.
However, the devil may be in the details.
The Practical Reality is Many Covid-19 Workers’ Comp Claims Have Been Rejected
According to a recent article, nearly half of the Covid-19 workers’ compensation claims made by first responders and health professionals in Florida have been rejected. Specifically, it appears that almost half of claims were denied and that over half of the denials were from private insurers that provide workers’ compensation coverage under Florida law.
There seems to be a bit of policy debate with regard to a private insurer’s responsibility vis a’ vis public insurers. That is because public insurers cover so many more first responders – police, fire, and first aid – than private insurers. However, the Florida memo quoted above could not be clearer. Insurers, both private and public, need provide workers’ compensation coverage for those essential workers who contract Covid-19 on the job. The real issue, however, is how can an essential worker prove that he or she contracted the virus at work.
That is why you should consider consulting with a Florida Workers’ Compensation Act law firm that understands what proofs are needed to obtain workers’ compensation benefits.
Get Help for Your Claim from Florida Workers’ Compensation Act Lawyers in Jacksonville
Our RITE Law attorneys focus on a workers’ compensation practice. That experience can be invaluable if you make a claim under Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law, particularly in a new area such as illness from the coronavirus.
The Florida Workers’ Compensation Act was established to help injured and/or ill employees and their families overcome the financial issues that result from work-related injuries and illnesses that occur within the State of Florida, outside the coverage of any type of federal coverage. If you are injured as a result of a work-related incident, or if you develop a condition or disease as a result of the type of work you do, your employer’s workers’ compensation coverage may entitle you to medical, partial wage replacement, and possible permanent damage benefits.
At RITE Law, we started our Florida Workers’ Compensation Act law firm for one reason – to help those in Florida and elsewhere have the resources of a firm that was “big enough to fight but small enough to care.” At Rudolph, Israel, Tucker & Ellis (RITE law), we have the resources and experience to go to trial when it is necessary, and we have the wisdom to advise you appropriately.
Without help from the RITE Law, the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act law firm in Jacksonville, making workers’ compensation claims can be very difficult. When you turn to our firm, we spring into action, making sure that every detail of your claim is addressed. Call us for help. Our number is (904) 500-RITE or you can fill out our contact form online. We provide a free case evaluation, so feel free to call us today.