The coronavirus outbreak has altered the normal course of business for Pennsylvania workers and the workers’ compensation agencies. As the state takes measures to slow the disease, the Department of Labor & Industry released guidelines for workers who contract coronavirus on the job. These new rules determine whether or not you may qualify for workers’ compensation after suffering from coronavirus.
Options for Filing Workers’ Compensation Claims During Coronavirus
While Pennsylvania continues taking precautionary measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the PA Department of Labor & Industry has provided two options for filing workers’ compensation claims:
- “Disease-as-Injury” Workers’ Compensation Claims: With a “disease-as-injury” claim, the employee must show medical evidence that they contracted coronavirus within the workplace.
- “Occupational Disease” Workers’ Compensation Claims: Under an “occupational disease” claim, an employee must show that coronavirus is occurring at a higher rate in the employee’s occupation or industry than within the general population. Health care workers and first responders, for example, may contract coronavirus at a higher rate than librarians or school teachers.
‘Disease-as-Injury’ Claims for Coronavirus
Because authorities struggle to pinpoint how, when, and where COVID-19 spreads, most workers may find disease-as-injury claims difficult to prove. Example: You could become sick after working at a gas station all day, handling money and talking to hundreds of people. Unless you can prove that one of those customers gave you coronavirus, the insurance companies could argue you caught coronavirus on the bus ride home or when you visited the grocery store after work.
‘Occupational Disease’ Claims for Coronavirus
Workers who contract coronavirus and who are in an industry that has a higher risk of contracting it than the population as a whole may be more likely to receive workers’ compensation benefits by filing an occupational disease claim. Because the law gives a presumption the cause of the disease is within the worker’s profession or industry, occupational disease claims can be easier to argue than disease-as-injury claims.
By the Numbers: Reporting Coronavirus and Occupational Illnesses in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law maintains important reporting deadlines you should know:
- 120 days. Pennsylvania grants you 120 days from the date of its occurrence or from the date you knew or had reason to believe it was work-related to alert your employer that you contracted an illness in the workplace. However, you should report your illness to your employer as soon as possible after your diagnosis. If you fail to notify your employer within 120 days, you may be barred from filing for workers’ compensation benefits.
- 3 years. If you are denied medical benefits or wage loss benefits, Pennsylvania law grants you three years from the date of your injury or onset of benefits to file a claim petition.
- 300 weeks. For occupational diseases, Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law grants workers 300 weeks (about six years) after their last exposure to prove they suffered damages from the disease. However, you still have to file within three years from the date you knew or had reason to believe your condition was work-related.
Talk to your lawyer about the medical complications you experience, as certain symptoms may determine whether or not you qualify for certain benefits. Specific respiratory diseases, for example, have stringent requirements that you may or may not meet in the normal course of your workday.
Support for Western Pennsylvania
We applaud the efforts of our region’s health care professionals, lawmakers, and workers who have taken strides to protect themselves, our community members, and our local economy. We remain committed to workers in Western Pennsylvania now more than ever. We will stand by you through this pandemic to fight for the check you deserve. For more information, contact us.