As the death toll due to COVID-19 climbs, families of some deceased frontline workers are finding out that the workers’ compensation system is stacked against them.
“The COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique circumstance where the many jobs that are not typically considered hazardous have suddenly become very dangerous for workers. Workers deemed essential …are at a high risk of exposure to the virus while at work. But the more hazardous working conditions do not guarantee that a COVID-19 infection would be covered under workers’ compensation in most states.” (NCSL.org)
Families are fighting for benefits because of the death of their loved ones (doctors, nurses, physician assistants, ambulance drivers, hospital housekeepers, and maintenance workers, to name a few), and facing “denials or long-shot odds of getting benefits paid. In some cases, those benefits amount to an ambulance bill. In others, they would provide lifetime salary replacement for a spouse.”(Inquirer.com)
These frontline workers are risking their lives everyday helping others. In at least 16 states to date, measures have been passed to make it easier for frontline “workers infected with the coronavirus to qualify for benefits for lost wages, hospital bills or death. Similar bills are pending in other states.” (KHN.org)
Many of these bills state that the burden of proof will be on the employer, (not the employee, which is the status quo). In other words, instead of the employee (or the employee’s family) having to prove he/she contracted the virus on the job, the employer would be forced to prove the employee did not catch the virus at work.
“KHN [Kaiser Health News] and The Guardian U.S. have identified more than 700 [health care workers] who have died and has told the story of 139 of them. For these workers’ families, the stakes of the pending laws are enormous.”
One of these stories remembered 22-year-old John Paul Granger (AKA JP), one of South Carolina’s youngest COVID victims. He was an EMT in Greenville.
Granger died on May 26 after a month in the hospital. Patrick Hahne, friend of Granger’s and former EMT driver “said he and JP “frequently expressed how inadequate the PPE and precautions” were. Initially, he added, the only protection they typically had when transporting patients to dialysis clinics, for example, was surgical masks. Hahne said they started wearing N95 masks a few days before JP fell ill.”(KHN.org)
Actions taken in South Carolina:
To date, no legislation has been passed to help the families of deceased frontline South Carolinians that have succumbed to COVID-19 get the workers’ compensation benefits they deserve.
For now, S.C. Code § 42-11-10 states: “Testing and treatment of an employee exposed to a contagious disease is a question of law that requires a fact-specific legal analysis and ultimately can only be decided by a Commissioner at a Hearing. Nothing prevents an employee from filing a workers’ compensation claim if they believe they contracted a disease that is work-related. If the claim is denied by the employer, the employee has the right to request a hearing before a Commissioner. At the hearing, the Commissioner will hear the facts presented and render a decision after applying the facts of the case to the law.” (Fox28media.com)
The Law Offices of David L. Hood and co-counsel have been fighting for the rights of injured workers in Charleston, N. Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, Georgetown, Murrells Inlet, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Columbia, Greenville, Hilton Head, Rock Hill and all across South Carolina for over 25 years. We have a dedicated team that will strive to take care of your claim professionally and treat you with respect. Over the years we and our co-counsel have represented hundreds of injured workers and their families, working hard to get them the medical treatment and compensation they deserve.
To learn more about what we can do for you, contact our offices to set up a free initial consultation. If you choose to work with us, we will handle your case on a contingent fee basis, which means you pay nothing unless we make a recovery for you. To get in touch with us, you can call our offices at (843) 491-6025 or email us here.