Right now Coronavirus is ravaging the United States. In Ohio, under the leadership of Governor Dewine and Dr. Acton, we have been successful in flattening the curve. Many of us have been furloughed, and laid off from our jobs. Some folks are essential workers.
The two biggest categories of essential workers who have been hard hit by the coronavirus are essential workers in health care and essential workers working in grocery stores. If you or your loved one worked as a doctor, nurse, or any of the myriad support staff at a hospital such as Grant, Mount Carmel, OSU Wexner, the Cleveland Clinic. OhioHealth and have contracted coronavirus you may be able to file a workers comp claim. Our health care workers have been hit pretty hard by the coronavirus. Twenty percent of coronavirus cases in Ohio have been medical providers. The issue is what happens when you as a medical provider have contracted coronavirus, what can you do?
For medical providers who have missed two to three weeks of work and have suffered minor to medium symptoms, have not been hospitalized, if he or she has short term disability benefits, it might be advisable to seek compensation in that manner. For those who have been hospitalized, have suffered significant medical bills related to that hospitalization it makes sense to file a claim. The same is true for individuals whose mother, father, son or daughter have died from coronavirus while working in a hospital or nursing home. In this case the survivors would be able for file a claim for death benefits.
The challenge with coronavirus, which Ohio BWC defines as an occupational disease, is that you will need to show that you contracted covid-19 at work. Medical providers are in a better position in this instance because hospitals and nursing homes have been tracking exposure. If the exposed nurse or doctor cannot objectively show the path of their exposure, he or she will need to eliminate other potential sources of coronavirus outside of the hospital or nursing. That’s the way Ohio workers comp works currently, It is quite possible that Governor Dewine and the Ohio legislature may change things to be more favorable to essential workers who work in medical care, particularly those workers who are caring for coronavirus patients.
If you are a grocery store worker at Meijers, Krogers, Giant Eagle, Aldi’s, Walmart or Costco, you have been deemed an essential worker. Some of you may have been provided personal protective equipment, some of you may have not. Medical providers, doctors, nurses are in the hot zone of the coronavirus. But the advantage that doctor or nurse may have over a grocery store worker is that nurses and doctors are absolutely aware that they are in the hotzone. They are aware that they are walking in and around a miasma of coronavirus. They are instructed to wear proper ppes, hopefully they are provided the proper ppes.
Grocery stores workers may have an existential awareness that they may be exposed to coronavirus but they just don’t know. That shopper who looks fine, may actually be an asymptomatic carrier. Some shoppers may have had the mild version of covid-19, instead of undergoing quarantine of him or herself, they are going out and about in the community. Working in a grocery store, you are not educated to the same level and extent as a medical worker in terms of preventing exposure to disease. You haven’t undergone years of medical education. Grocery store workers are soldiers going into a war without the weapons or awareness of where the enemy is.
Grocery store workers are dying. We have the two Walmart workers in Illinois who died after contacting the coronavirus. The family of those employees are filing wrongful death lawsuits. In Ohio employers are shielded from wrongful death lawsuits unless they take some egregious action that causes that employee’s death. Its unclear whether a grocery store in Ohio will be found to have caused a wrongful death. Therefore the more likely cause of action a claimant’s family can file would be their own workers’ comp claim for death benefits.
The question you may have as a worker at Walmart, Giant Eagle, Costco, Aldi’s, or Krogers is whether you have a workers comp claim. Again, depends on the amount of financial and medical damages you have suffered. If you had to be hospitalized due to coronavirus your bills will likely be in the 10000’s of thousands of dollars. Who pays that bill, you? your insurance company? medicaid? your employer? If you find yourself in that boat, you should file a claim. Again whether or not your claim is allowed for coronavirus at work will depend if you can show by a preponderance of the events that you contracted covid-19 while working in the grocery store.
The rules are the same if you work at a warehouse, gas station, or any of the restaurants or fast food joints that are still open during the coronavirus pandemic. If you have contracted coronavirus from work, have incurred significant medical bills, you should contact an attorney and you believe you contracted covid-19 at work and not home or some other place, I strongly recommend you talk to an attorney regarding whether or not to file a workers comp claim.
You have a year from exposure to coronavirus to file your workers comp claim. Gather all the evidence you have regarding where you contracted covid-19. Gather all the medical bills you have incurred due to your coronavirus exposure. This is a developing area of law. Its quite possible that Ohio may tweak the current workers compensation laws to make it easier to file a workers compensation claim due to coronavirus.
Please email or call Malek & Malek for a free consultation and evaluation of your claim.