Many Texas workers who have been deemed essential and continue to report to their jobs wonder whether they’ll receive workers’ compensation if they contract the COVID-19 coronavirus. Unfortunately, like many aspects of the coronavirus pandemic, this is a question without a clear answer at the moment.
To qualify for workers’ compensation based on a diagnosis of COVID-19, your employer must have workers’ comp insurance (which is not required in Texas), and you must have contracted the virus as a result of your employment. Workers’ comp pays all medical bills, a portion of lost wages, and additional benefits for permanent disability or death.
The Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) specifically addresses the question of benefits for workplace-contracted coronavirus in FAQs on a webpage providing coronavirus resources. The short answer is that claims will be decided on a case-by-case basis by the insurance company. If you don’t like the workers’ comp insurer’s decision, you have the right to appeal to the DWC.
Fortunately, this may not be the final word on the subject for all Texas workers. In Houston, for example, Mayor Sylvester Turner has announced that the city will assume that any city employee who tests positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus contracted it while on duty, the Houston Chronicle reports. In the end, it may be up to local governmental officials or individual employers to guarantee workers’ comp benefits for their employees who contract coronavirus.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with COVID-19 that you think was contracted through workplace exposure, we suggest that you file for workers’ compensation if your employer has workers’ compensation and contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney if your claim is disputed. One estimate says coronavirus treatment will result in tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills per case, which translates to expensive workers’ comp claims that many insurers will fight.
The workers’ compensation attorneys of Herrman & Herrman in Brownsville, Texas, are reviewing COVID-19-related workers’ comp cases from Brownsville and all of South Texas. We are here to fight for you when employers and insurers do not do the right thing.
File a Coronavirus Workers’ Compensation Claim
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order defining “essential services” during the COVID-19 pandemic incorporated everything listed as essential by the federal government’s Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce. This covers several industries and allows or requires numerous Texans to continue to report to their jobs during the pandemic.
To obtain workers’ comp benefits, a worker who contracted COVID-19 would need to prove that he or she faced a heightened risk of exposure to illness because of their employment compared to the risk of exposure that members of the general public faced. The Texas Medical Association says that “proving a work-related contraction of COVID-19 would be difficult in many scenarios, given that the virus has proven contagious enough to cause a global pandemic.”
However, we would argue that Texans in essential jobs who continue to regularly report to job sites undeniably increased their potential exposure to the coronavirus compared to people complying with stay-at-home directives.
If you believe you have a case of COVID-19 coronavirus that you contracted while on the job and/or because of your assigned job duties, you should file for workers’ compensation benefits as soon as you can.
To file a workers’ compensation claim:
- Report your COVID-19 diagnosis. Notify your employer in writing that you have been diagnosed with coronavirus and that you believe you contracted the virus at work. If you can, identify dates and the specific incident, source or reason you think you were exposed to COVID-19 while on the job. Save copies of all communications to and from your employer.
It is also up to you to report your illness to the Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC). Complete and submit DWC Form-041, Employee’s Claim for Compensation for a Work-Related Injury or Occupational Disease. Download a copy of the competed form for your records. Submit the form online or mail a copy to:
Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation
7551 Metro Center Drive, Suite 100 MS-93
Austin, TX, 78744-1645
- Advise your doctor of the workplace connection. Write down an explanation of your workplace exposure to COVID-19, including when and how it happened, names of others present and take it with you if you go to a doctor’s office and/or the hospital. A coronavirus victim may lose the ability to communicate and loved ones will be excluded from treatment areas, so putting the circumstances of your illness in writing helps to ensure doctors have the information. It also preserves your explanation as evidence for a claim later.
- Follow COVID-19 related instructions. If you isolate at home, be sure to follow doctors’ orders as well as any governmental orders regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Otherwise, the workers’ comp administrator may contend that you could have exposed yourself outside of work and/or that you were not made particularly ill by the virus.
- Track your illness and expenses. You and/or a loved one should maintain a record of all treatment you receive for coronavirus, workdays you miss, and all receipts for bills and out-of-pocket expenses associated with your illness and recovery.
You should also speak to an experienced Texas workers’ compensation lawyer about your claim, particularly if your employer is not 100 percent supportive of you seeking medical care and/or taking time away from work to recover. A lawyer can help you prepare for what may be a fight to obtain workers’ comp benefits.
Contact Our Brownsville COVID-19 Workers’ Comp Attorneys
Texas workers’ compensation claims related to the coronavirus pandemic will likely be handled on a case-by-case basis with many employers and insurers disputing them. You need an experienced lawyer who can help you present the strongest claim for benefits. The workers’ compensation lawyers of Herrman & Herrman, P.L.L.C. are ready to fight for clients and their family members to obtain the full benefits available by law to them.