The work injury attorneys at Ankin Law Office provide legal representation to help Illinois employees who were exposed to COVID-19 on the job recover workers’ compensation benefits. In addition to recovering lost wages, eligible workers can recover 100% of medical expenses with no co-insurance or deductible required. Workers’ compensation also provides death benefits for surviving family members.
For a free consultation with our Chicago COVID-19 injury lawyers, call Ankin Law Office at 312-600-0000.
What Is COVID-19?
Also referred to as the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19 is an infectious disease that has created a worldwide health crisis. Most people who contract the virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory symptoms and recover without medical intervention. For older people and those with underlying health conditions like cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, HIV, and compromised immune systems, however, the virus can cause serious complications. In many cases, the disease is deadly.
Because COVID-19 spreads so quickly and can cause permanent lung damage or be fatal, the virus has caused schools, restaurants, nonessential retail establishments, government agencies, and countless other businesses to temporarily close. Shelter in place orders have been issued throughout the United States and many workers have been able to transition to working from home to reduce exposure and help control the outbreak.
Unfortunately, many healthcare workers, first responders, essential retail workers, truck drivers, and some factory workers who provide vital services must continue to go to work. Since these workers are unable to shelter at home, they are at high risk of contracting the disease on the job. In fact, several employees have already reported getting COVID-19 at work.
What Are the Symptoms of COVID-19?
Although some people with the novel coronavirus will experience no symptoms or very mild symptoms, others present with signs of the disease within 2-14 days after exposure. According to the World Health Organization, common symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- Dry Cough
- Shortness of Breath
- Sore Throat
- Aches and Pains
In rare cases, people have also reported experiencing runny noses, headaches, nasal congestion, nausea, and diarrhea.
WHO also reports that 80% of patients who contract coronavirus have mild to moderate forms of the disease including non-pneumonia and pneumonia. Approximately 13.8% of people experience more severe symptoms and 6.1% experience respiratory failure, multiple organ dysfunction, and/or septic shock. Mortality increases with age.
Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 at Work
To help prevent infection and slow the transmission of COVID-19, WHO recommends workers wash their hands thoroughly and frequently, especially if they come into contact with surfaces or other people. Maintaining a distance of at least six feet from other people, covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and staying at home when symptoms are present can also help prevent the spread.
Workers at High Risk of Infection
Anyone is at risk for contracting the coronavirus on the job, but some workers are at higher risk than others.
Employees in the Healthcare Industry
Nurses, doctors, physician’s assistants, laboratory technicians, and direct care workers are at high risk of exposure to COVID-19 on the job because they work in places like clinics, hospitals, and doctor’s offices where infected people come for treatment.
To make matters worse, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a severe shortage of personal protective equipment that is vital to protecting healthcare workers. In fact, supplies like surgical masks, examination gloves, gowns and aprons, and face shields are in such short supply that WHO is working with the Pandemic Supply Chain Network to increase the production and distribution of healthcare worker PPE.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidance for emergency responders who are more likely to come into contact with infected persons while on the job. It recommends that 911 dispatchers prescreen callers and patients for COVID-19 risk factors. It also suggests that first responders like paramedics, ambulance workers, and police modify their practices and procedures to reduce the risk of exposure. This includes but is not limited to:
- Wearing personal protective equipment and disposing of it properly when it is no longer in use
- Having adequate training and education about COVID-19 safety
- Using respiratory devices
- Decontaminating all supplies, equipment, vehicles, and surfaces that come into contact with people
Other High-Risk Workers
Other groups of workers are at a greater risk of on-the-job exposure to coronavirus as well. These include:
- Janitors and custodial personnel – especially those who clean medical facilities
- Retail workers including cashiers, stockers, and maintenance crews who are required to continue working despite quarantine orders
- Employees who worked in the hospitality or food service industry, like desk clerks and cleaning crews in hotels and servers in restaurants
- Workers in the transportation industry like bus, taxi, or Uber drivers, airline workers, and people who worked in the cruise industry
- Nursing home workers including nursing assistants, laundry workers, and cleaning staff
- Traveling workers – especially employees who visited coronavirus hotspots for their jobs
On-the-Job Exposure to Coronavirus
Since symptoms of the disease are often unpredictable and many people show no symptoms at all for up to 14 days, thousands of people have been exposed to coronavirus at work. Under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, employees who can prove that they contracted COVID-19 at work are eligible for medical and wage replacement benefits. Employers’ insurance companies may also be obligated to pay death benefits to surviving family members if loved were exposed to COVID-19 at work and died as a result.
Obtaining Workers’ Compensation Benefits for COVID-19 Exposure at Work
If you suffered injuries caused by the novel coronavirus and you suspect you were exposed to the virus on the job, contact Ankin Law Office to schedule a free phone consultation. Our work injury attorneys can help you obtain workers’ compensation benefits by:
- Obtaining medical records that confirm your diagnosis
- Speaking with you about your job duties and whether your job put you in direct contact with the general public
- Helping you gather information about medical providers, treatments, and your prognosis
- Investigating whether other employees were also diagnosed with COVID-19