Wondering where you stand in regards to worker’s compensation under COVID-19? If you’ve been affected by the coronavirus and are unable to work, here’s where you stand:
To say that COVID-19 has had a huge – and unexpected – impact on the world over the last 10 or so months would be an understatement.
At the time of writing this, there have been more than 11 million recorded cases in the U.S. A more sobering statistic is that more than 245,000 people have died from contracting COVID-19.
In South Carolina alone, there have been more than 194,000 recorded cases of people contracting the coronavirus, with 4,110 deaths.
The spread of the virus is not slowing down either. It’s trending upwards right now.
Health should always be your first concern. But we can’t ignore the financial implications of not being able to work due to contracting the virus. In addition, with the federal government failing to pass additional COVID relief, the possibility of exposure to COVID-19 is a more frightening prospect to the health and safety of employees than ever before.
Hundreds of thousands of people in South Carolina have had to take time off work due to COVID. This is from either having the disease or being forced to quarantine to avoid spreading the virus. Moreover, its nearly 14-day incubation period makes controlling it’s spread in the workplace even more difficult.
Are you one of those affected financially by not being able to work due to COVID? If so, here’s where you stand and what you can do to claim workers’ compensation:
How the Workers’ Compensation System Works in South Carolina
Regarding COVID, the first and possibly largest hurdle is what Section 42-1-160 of the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act defines as lawful reasons why someone can claim workers’ comp.
The legislation clearly states a person can only claim for injuries which are a result of an:
Accident arising out of and in the course of employment and shall not include a disease in any form. Except when it results naturally and unavoidably from the accident and except such diseases as are compensable under the provisions of Chapter 11 of this title.
What this means in simple terms is that a person can only claim workers’ comp for personal injuries sustained while at work.
With the caveat that it’s possible to claim for diseases that result from a specific connection to the type of job a person performs. This would include things like occupational diseases due to exposure to harmful chemicals or materials while performing their role at work.
It’s clear that the scope of workers’ compensation coverage was not intended to cover people not being able to work due to community diseases like the common cold, flu, and now COVID-19.
However, it’s also clear that no one expected or predicted we would find ourselves in the situation we’re in right now. Furthermore, it’s possible many people were exposed to the virus due to the jobs.
Can You Claim Workers’ Comp if You’re Unable To Work Due To COVID?
As explained, under South Carolina law, a person can claim damages if they’re unable to work due to a disease they contracted due to their job.
This means, if you contracted COVID while at work and have had to take time off, you may have a legal case to file for a claim.
It’s really going to come down to your personal circumstances. Most notably, whether or not it can be proved without a doubt that you contracted the virus due to your job.
Keep in mind this is a new disease, and we’re still deep in the midst of the pandemic. In the general scheme of things, this is a new territory in the legal field. More information is coming out all the time concerning this matter, so it’s hard to say right now exactly where you stand.
We can advise at this point in time that you contact an experienced lawyer familiar with workers’ compensation laws in South Carolina to discuss your case.
What Should You Do if You’ve Been Unable To Work Due To COVID?
You may not be sure at this time if you can prove where or how you contracted the virus. However, one thing we can be sure of is that it’s within your best interest to report the illness to your employer as soon as possible.
Under South Carolina law, you have 90 days to report any injury or illness sustained at work. You then have up to two years to file a claim for benefits.
After reporting the illness to your employer and seeking medical advice, we recommend calling a lawyer to discuss your case.
Your employer may refer you to their insurance company. You can go ahead and complete the paperwork for their insurance company if you feel confident doing so. But do keep in mind that it’s within an insurance company’s best interests to deny claims.
We have experience working with insurance companies and are happy to handle these communications on behalf of our clients. Due to the coronavirus’s added confusion, we would advise you to let a lawyer handle communications with your insurance company.
In the meantime, it may help your case if put together the following information:
- The date and time you think you contracted COVID, and from where
- The date and time you reported your illness to your employer and what they said
- Keep any copies of medical documents, such as your test results and consultation notes
- A detailed list of all the expenses you’ve incurred, including lost wages
We appreciate that you need to focus on the health of yourself and those around you at this time. But keeping a clear head regarding the information you will need in case of a claim is crucial to your case.
We’re Here To Help
The laws surrounding worker’s compensation under COVID-19 are confusing for many. It’s a new disease, and we’re dealing with unprecedented times right now.
If you’ve been unable to work due to contracting the disease, it’s important you speak with a lawyer to assess your individual circumstances.
At Kent Law Firm, we’ve handled a range of worker’s compensation claims over the years. We understand how the workers’ compensation system works in South Carolina. If you’re eligible for compensation, we’ll make sure you are awarded the maximum amount possible.
Call us today on 803-433-5368, or contact us via this form. We’ll get right back to you to arrange a free consultation to discuss your case.