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Coronavirus & Workers Compensation in Rhode Island | Death benefits, Lost Wages & Medical Bills

Most workers will need to prove they got COVID- 19 on the job

Many Rhode Island workers who were infected with the Novel Coronavirus may need to seek workers compensation benefits to pay costs of hospitalization, prescriptions and lost wages. Families of workers who died as a result of Coronavirus will need to be compensated for the loss of future income for the remainder of the deceased’s life expectancy. This article addresses whether employees in Rhode Island (RI), who were infected with Covid 19 at work can receive worker’s compensation benefits. The vast majority or workers in Rhode Island will need a workers compensation lawyer to prove they got covid-19 on the job.  Can the families, dependent children and spouse of a deceased worker obtain survivor compensation as a result of a death that arose out of the deceased’s employment? Does workers’ compensation in Rhode Island cover Coronavirus (covid 19)?

Speak directly with  RI attorney on his cell phone, contact our Covid 19- Workers Compensation Hotline  24/7 at (401) 648-3580

This article was authored by Rhode Island lawyer, David Slepkow. David has 22 years of legal experience.

FAQS about workers compensation and Covid-19 in Rhode Island

  • Will I receive workers’ compensation if I contracted COVID-19 on the job?
  • Does Workers Compensation insure a worker who, while at work, is exposed to a person who has the Coronavirus?
  • Does Workers Compensation law cover an employee who contracts Covid-19 while working?
  • If a workers, nurse or healthcare provide contracts Covid-19 at work and dies as a result, can the spouse, children or family get death benefits from workers compensation in Rhode Island?
  • Are workers in Rhode Island who contract Coronavirus eligible for workers compensation benefits?

Will workers infected by Coronavirus be eligible for workers compensation benefits?

  • A worker with COVID-19 will need to prove that Coronavirus was contracted at work.
  • A worker will need to prove that Covid 19 infection was not contracted through other potential sources of exposure.
  • A worker may need to establish that Covid 19 is incident to their particular type employment
  • Nurses and Healthcare workers covered by Beacon will be entitled to a presumption that infection occurred at work and will get expedited benefits.
  • There may be a legislative solution which makes it easier for employees with COVID-19 to qualify for workers compensation benefits.

Questions that many Rhode Island workers are asking:

  • If I am infected with Covid 19 at work, can I get worker’s compensation benefits?
  • Can nurses and healthcare workers who tested positive for Covid 19 get workers compensation benefits in Rhode Island?
  • If a person contracts Covid 19 at work and later dies, can the family, spouse or children get survivor death benefits from a workers’ compensation claim?

This question has not been answered yet and will probably be litigated in the near future. Employees who contracted covid 19 during their employment should be entitled to workers compensation benefits in Rhode Island if they can establish that the virus infection most likely occurred at work. Healthcare workers and nurses with Beacon mutual  insurance will be provided worker’s compensation coverage. The State’s largest worker’s compensation company, Beacon Mutual, has announced that they will expedite claims for nurses and healthcare workers and presume that their infection was contracted at work.

There are two primary issues concerning COVID-19 and workers compensation benefits:

  1. Can an employee prove that their Covid 19 infection occurred in the course of their employment?
  2. Is the Covid 19 virus a compensable “occupational disease” that is connected with or arising from the peculiar characteristics of the employment?

The Insurance companies may attempt to deny certain claims alleging there is no proof that a certain employee contracted Covid 19 at work.  The indemnity companies will also assert that Rhode Island law does not allow for payment of benefits in this type of situation because Covid 19 is not a disease that arises out of a particular type of employment.

RI Law:  Coronavirus must ‘arise out of and in the course of employment.’

Eligibility for comp. benefits under the Rhode Island workers compensation law is premised on the injured worker establishing that a diagnosed illness arose out of their employment. The worker must establish that a diagnosed illness was not as a result of exposure from other non-work related sources. Pursuant to Rhode Island workers compensation law, an employee’s injury must arise out of and be and in the “course of his or her employment, connected and referable to the employment” (7)(i) Employees who are comp. claimants must retain a Rhode Island workers compensation lawyer to prove that the novel corona virus infection took place at the workplace and resulted from work for the employer.

What type of benefits are available in workers compensation court for Covid 19 victims?

  • medical expenses
  • replacement of lost wages
  • disability benefits for workers who cannot work as a result of the disease or injury
  • death benefits to the families who lost loved ones

Speculation that Coronavirus infection occurred at work is not enough

If an essential frontline employee is infected with Coronavirus, in all likelihood the infection occurred at the employees’ workplace. However, speculation, guesswork and common sense will not win a Rhode Island workers’ compensation case. The Rhode Island workers compensation attorney must establish in Court by competent evidence that the Coronavirus infection occurred at the workplace. “As a general rule, an employee’s injury is compensable if the particular facts and circumstances presented establish a “nexus” or a “causal relationship” between the injury and the employment.”  Frank P. TAVARES v. A.C. & S. INC., 462 A.2d 977 (1983), Bottomley v. Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp., R.I., 441 A.2d 553, 554 (1982)Knowlton v. Porter Trucking Co., 117 R.I. 28, 30, 362 A.2d 131, 133 (1976).

A matter of proof

A worker may have difficulty proving that they were infected while at work. The insurance company could argue that the disease did not arise from work. The insurance company could assert that the worker contracted the virus while they were shopping for their own groceries, from a family member, at a friend’s house or out in the community. An employee,who is infected by the Covid 19 virus, should hire one of the best workers compensation lawyers in Rhode Island. The RI workers’ comp lawyer will fight to get justice for the victim and hold the insurance company accountable.

What is the standard of proof to establish that Coronavirus infection took place at work?

The Rhode Island workers compensation lawyer must establish by a fair preponderance of the evidence that the Covid 19 infection took place at work. This means it was more probably than not that the infection took place in the course of employment. In order to prove that the employee was infected by the Novel Coronavirus in the course of the worker’s employment, the RI workers compensation lawyer may need to retain a virologist, infectious disease expert, epidemiologist, or occupational disease specialist. Preponderance of the evidence is the standard of proof used in Providence Workers Compensation Court. Preponderance of the evidence is also the standard of proof utilized in the vast majority of civil cases in Rhode Island.

Reliability and admissibility of expert testimony

The workers compensation judge would have to make a determination whether the expert was competent to testify. The seminal case in Rhode Island for the admissibility and reliability of expert testimony is the RI Supreme Court case of Dipetrillo v Dow Chemical Company. The Dipetrillo Court adopted the reasoning and decision of the United States Supreme Court case of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993)

Trial judge is a gatekeeper as to whether an expert may testify

In all civil cases including comp cases, the trial justice must act as a gatekeeper to determine whether a proposed expert may testify in the hearing or trial. “Faced with a proffer of expert scientific testimony, then, the trial judge must determine at the outset, pursuant to Rule 104(a) whether the expert is proposing to testify to (1) scientific knowledge that (2) will assist the trier of fact to understand or determine the fact in issue.  This entails a preliminary assessment of whether the reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony is scientifically valid and of whether the reasoning or methodology properly can be applied to the facts in issue.” Daubert , 509 U.S. at 592-93, 113 S.Ct. at 2796, 125 L.Ed.2d at 48

Applicable Rules of evidence

Providence Workers Compensation Court utilizes the RI rules of evidence in all trials and testimonial hearings. “Rule 104(a) of the Rhode Island Rules of Evidence provides that the court shall determine “[p]reliminary questions concerning the qualification of a person to be a witness * * * .” Rule 702 of the Rhode Island Rules of Evidence provides as follows with respect to expert witnesses: “Testimony by experts. — If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of fact or opinion.”  https://www.courts.ri.gov/Courts/SupremeCourt/OpinionsOrders/orders/09-355.pdf

Will workers’ compensation insurance companies attempt to deny Covid 19 claims for employees who worked during the pandemic?

Only time will tell what positions the insurance companies will take as to whether they will accept liability for the occupational disease claims for Rhode Island residents who worked during the pandemic of 2020. There may be a legislative solution in Rhode Island. A legislative solution may include a presumption, in all cases, that all workers infected with Covid 19 arose during the course of the employee’s employment. Rhode Island worker’s compensation insurers may do the right thing and capitulate to political and social pressures to accept accountability for Covid comp. claims.

Will nurses and medical professionals who test positive for Coronavirus qualify for workers compensation benefits?

One of the largest workers comp. insurers, Beacon Mutual Insurance Company, recently announced that they will presume that all healthcare workers who worked during this pandemic, who were infected with Covid 19, were injured in the scope of employment. The vast majority of workers in Rhode Island are insured by Beacon. Beacon mutual insures over 60 percent of the workers in Rhode Island. Beacon’s move was a nice gesture of social responsibility in the face of a statewide crises causing thousands of deaths. However, Beacon’s policy does not go far enough. Beacon’s policy does not address the plight of non-healthcare workers such as grocery store workers, Walmart employees,  nursing home staff, hotel workers, delivery drivers, construction workers and others who were exposed to Covid 19 virus at the workplace.

Rhode Island’s largest workers’ compensation insurance provider, Beacon mutual, stated:

“In order to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits under the Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Act, claimants need to prove that their diagnosed illness arose out of and in the course of their employment, and not through other potential sources of exposure.  In an attempt to expedite any workers’ compensation claims by those providing treatment and care for COVID-19 patients, Beacon intends to recognize the heightened risk of COVID-19 exposure to policyholder health care workers and to presume that those health care workers diagnosed with COVID-19 have an occupational disease, thereby making them eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.  Specifically, throughout the declared state of emergency in Rhode Island, Beacon will address any such claims as follows:…”

The State of Rhode Island issued a press release stating:

“Workers Compensation: Beacon Mutual Insurance Company, which insures 12,000 Rhode Island businesses, will be allowing frontline healthcare workers to file for workers compensation under the presumption that they contracted the virus in the course of doing their jobs – and will expedite those claims….” Press release 

Governor Raimondo’s press conference  statement

Go local Providence covered Governor Raimondos press conference and Governor Raimondo stated, “I have said all along there have been so many companies in Rhode Island that have been fantastic…I want to recognize Beacon Mutual who insures over 12,000 Rhode Island businesses. I’m announcing on their behalf that Beacon will be allowing frontline healthcare workers to file for workers’ compensation under the assumption they contracted it while on the job….This is an additional benefit on top of [Temporary Disability Insurance, Unemployment Insurance, and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance]…. There’s a number of different benefits available if you’ve lost your job or contracted the disease…”

Can I be denied workers compensation coverage because Coronavirus is not technically an injury?

Under RI law, both an injury and an “occupational disease” is covered by workers compensation benefits. Coronavirus infectious disease illness does not fall in the four corners of any RI workers compensation laws. However, the Novel Coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented and unanticipated global pandemic. The law in Rhode Island may categorize Coronavirus as an “occupational disease” not an injury. An occupational disease which arises out of work may be treated the same way as an injury in Rhode Island Workers Compensation Court.

Legislative intent

“The Legislature enacted G.L. 1956 (1979 Reenactment) Chapter 34 of title 28 in order to protect the worker who was exposed to conditions that resulted in disability because of an occupational disease. Evidently the Legislature recognized that an occupational disease is set apart from accidental injuries in that it is not unexpected — because it is incident to a particular employment — and it is gradual in development.” Frank P. TAVARES v. A.C. & S. INC., 462 A.2d 977 (1983)  See Morgan v. Stillman White Foundry Co., 87 R.I. 408, 414, 142 A.2d 536, 538-39 (1958)Perez v. Columbia Granite Co., 74 R.I. 503, 507, 62 A.2d 658, 660 (1948)see also 1B Larson, The Law of Workmen’s Compensation § 41.31, at 7-357 to -358 (1982).

What is an occupational disease?

“Section 28-34-1(c) defines the term “occupational disease” as “a disease which is due to causes and conditions which are characteristic of and peculiar to a particular trade, occupation, process or employment.” Disability arising from silicosis or asbestosis is listed in § 28-34-2(32), as amended by P.L. 1982, ch. 32, art. 1, § 8, as a compensable occupational disease and is therefore treated as a personal injury. Moreover, § 28-34-3, as amended by P.L. 1982, ch. 32, art. 1, § 8, and § 28-34-4, as amended by P.L. 1979, ch. 151, § 1, provide that a disabled employee is entitled to compensation if the occupational disease is due to the nature of the employment and was contracted within that employment. Furthermore, when a worker has contracted an occupational disease from being exposed to a harmful substance over a period of years and in the course of successive employment, § 28-34-8 specifies that the employer who last exposed the worker to the harmful substance is liable to pay the entire compensation.” Frank P. TAVARES v. A.C. & S. INC., 462 A.2d 977 (1983) See also Esmond Mills, Inc. v. American Woolen Co., 76 R.I. 214, 219, 68 A.2d 920, 923 (1949).

Is Covid 19 the type of “occupational disease” that victims can receive compensation benefits?

Rhode Island General law § 28-34-1 defines an occupational disease as “a disease which is due to causes and conditions which are characteristic of and peculiar to a particular trade, occupation, process, or employment.” Pursuant to Rhode Island Law 28-34-3 occupational diseases that are set forth in Rhode Island General Law § 28-34-2 are treated the same way as other injuries in Workers Compensation Court.

Rhode Island general law § 28-34-2  list many occupational diseases or conditions that are compensable. RI law § 28-34-2  lists 36 diseases and conditions but does not list a respiratory disease as a compensable  disease or condition. Here are some of the myriad list covered conditions:

  • Lead poisoning
  • Poisoning by carbon monoxide
  • Respiratory, gastrointestinal, or physiological nerve and eye disorders due to contact with petroleum products and their fumes.
  • Dermatitis (venenata)
  • Hernia, clearly recent in origin and resulting from a strain arising out of and in the course of employment and promptly reported to the employer

The RI Statute does not particularly list respiratory infection such as Covid 19 as an occupational disease

The problem is that Rhode Island General law § 28-34-2  and § 28-34-3 does not list a respiratory virus such as Covid 19 as a compensable injury in worker’s comp[ensation Court. RI law 28-34-3 lists a compensable injury as a “Disability arising from any cause connected with or arising from the peculiar characteristics of the employment.”

“Rhode Island Law has yet to address acute instances of contraction of infectious diseases in the workplace”

“Under Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Law, an occupational disease is set apart of accidental injuries in that it is not expected because it is incident to a particular employment, and it is gradual in development.” JD Supra “Rhode Island has yet to address acute instances of contraction of infectious diseases in the workplace. The state is notable for having limited case law, not just in the realm of workers’ compensation, but we anticipate this issue may be litigated in the coming years, given the widespread nature, and great impact of COVID-19.”JD Supra

Will Judges allow compensation for health care workers and first responders but deny non-healthcare workers compensation?

It is tough to argue that nurses and healthcare workers are not peculiarly subject to  contraction of the Covid virus that arises out of the characteristics of their employment responsibilities.  However, it will be much more complicated, absent legislative action, for non-healthcare workers to establish that that Covid arose out of a peculiar characteristic of their employment.

“It is arguable that for employees such as cashiers, waitstaff, or other individuals who work closely with the general public, that contraction of COVID-19 is a condition that is characteristic or peculiar to the particular trade, occupation or employment. We anticipate claimants’ attorneys will argue that the conditions of such particular employment, makes workers suspectable to communicable diseases. This is the argument we anticipate will be made to ensure contraction and perhaps even simple exposure of COVID-19 is determined a compensable injury.” JD Supra

The insurance company may try to deny claims asserting that Covid 19 is not due to causes peculiar to certain types of employment

The workers compensation insurance defense lawyers may argue in certain types of employment that Covid 19 does not arise from a peculiar characteristic of the employment as described in §28-34-3. In other words, infection with Covid 19 does not arise out of a peculiar characteristic of being a construction worker or pizza delivery driver. Furthermore, RI workers comp defense lawyers are likely to argue that Covid 19 is not an occupational disease as described in § 28-34-1 because it it is not a characteristic and peculiar to a trade, occupation or process of employment. It will be more difficult for the insurance defense lawyers to assert that contraction of  a disease such as Covid 19 would not arise out of the characteristics of working as a doctor, nurse, medical provider or nursing home staff. This reality may have been Beacon’s rationale for accepting accountability for workers’ comp. claims of nurses and medical providers who contacted Covid 19.

A unique and unprecedented challenge

Covid 19 infection presents a unique challenge to the workers compensation statutory scheme in Rhode Island. RI workers’ comp laws, clearly, did not and could not have anticipated a pandemic to this extent affecting the workforce in Rhode Island. The four corners of the workers compensation statute, case law and regulations are not directly referring to infections of workers caused during a pandemic of this nature and proportion.

Will lawmakers revise and update the RI workers compensation statute to provide coverage to employees?

There is a real possibility that the Rhode Island legislature amends the Rhode Island worker’s compensation to specifically include the Novel Coronavirus as a specific occupational disease that may arises out of employment and for which workers will be potentially entitled to benefits. The second issue would be whether the legislature creates a presumption for certain types of workers that Covid 19 infection ws contracted by employees during the course of their employment.

Will legislation be enacted in Rhode Island creating a presumption that a worker who tested positive for Coronavirus was infected at work?

There is a possibility of the Rhode Island Legislature enacting specific legislation to definitively create a legal presumption that all worker infections occurred at work. If the Rhode Island legislature creates a presumption, they must specifically state that it applies retroactively to Covid 19 victims. “As a general rule a statute is presumed to operate prospectively and not retrospectively, unless it appears by clear, strong language or by necessary implication that the Legislature intended to give the statute retroactive force and effect State v. Healy, 410 A. 2d 432 – RI: Supreme Court 1980,Langdeau v. Narragansett Insurance Co., 96 R.I. 276, 279, 191 A.2d 28, 30 (1963)Capobianco v. United Wire & Supply Co., 78 R.I. 309, 312, 82 A.2d 170, 172 (1951).

Fault or the failure of employers to follow safety protocol is not required

Even though an employer has good intentions, an employee could still be infected with Covid 19 at work. Despite an employer following the law and instituting proper safety protocols to protect their employees, members of their workforce can still be infected with the Novel Coronavirus. Fault and negligence of the employer is not an element of a workers’ compensation claim in Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. In other words, if an employee is injured or is infected with a virus at work, the employer is required to pay workers comp. benefits even if the employer did nothing wrong.

Workers compensation law in Rhode Island is relatively simple. If you are injured in the course of your employment, you are usually eligible for benefits. An employee is not required to show that his or her employer was negligent. An injured worker is not required to prove that negligence caused their injury.

Frontline workers- the heroes of this war

The heroes of the Covid 19 pandemic crises are now the frontline workers in Rhode Island. Frontline workers are providing essential services and goods to the public during these difficult times. The State of Rhode Island and the United States are effectively at war with an unconventional enemy, Covid 19. The frontline to this war is not soldiers. The frontline is the grocery store worker who check you out at Shaws / Stop and shop, delivery drivers and clerks at CVS providing your necessary and life-saving medications.

Essential frontline workers include: nurses, health care workers, first responders, EMT workers, medical providers, deliver drivers, physicians, store clerks, cashiers at the supermarket and other heroic workers in Rhode Island. Many employers are not providing their employees proper masks and personal protective equipment (ppe) Employees in Rhode Island face a substantial risk of exposure to the Novel Coronavirus.

Nurses and the workforce selflessly endangering their health and safety

Governor Gina Raimondo, local municipalities and the RI Department of Health have issued many safety protocols for Rhode Island employers. Thankfully, the vast majority of employers are instituting proper precautions for their employees and workers.  However, many employers are not following CDC and State of Rhode Island Department of Health Covid 19 rules and recommendations. The employees, nurses and workforce are selflessly endangering their own health and safety by doing their jobs. These workers are risking their lives to allow Rhode Island residents to get essential services such as food, medication, toiletries, health products and necessary legal services.

Insurance hardball tactics

Insurance companies are well known for their hard ball litigation strategies and tactics that involve insurance companies denying, delaying and deflecting liability and responsibility for an injured employee’s injury.

Which Rhode Island employees have workers compensation available to them?

Rhode Island law mandates very stringent workers’ compensation requirements for the vast majority of employers and companies in Rhode Island. In certain cases, municipal employees are not covered by workers compensation.

Can a spouse, child or family member file a wrongful death lawsuit against an employer as a result of a Covid 19  infection at work causing a fatality?

  • An employee subject to workers compensation law in RI cannot file a wrongful death lawsuit against their employer.
  • An employee cannot file a wrongful death lawsuit against one of his co-workers who caused him to be infected.

“In all cases where an employer and employee have elected to become subject to the provisions of chapters 29 – 38 of this title, the provisions of chapter 7 of title 10 shall not apply while those chapters are in effect.” § 28-29-21. Wrongful death law inapplicable.

Workers with Coronavirus cannot sue their employer seeking pain and suffering

An employee covered under workers compensation insurance cannot file a lawsuit seeking pain and suffering and other damages against their employer in Superior Court. “The right to compensation for an injury under chapters 29 – 38 of this title, and the remedy for an injury granted by those chapters, shall be in lieu of all rights and remedies as to that injury now existing, either at common law or otherwise against an employer, or its directors, officers, agents, or employees; and those rights and remedies shall not accrue to employees entitled to compensation under those chapters while they are in effect, except as otherwise provided in §§ 28-36-10 and 28-36-15.” 28-29-20. Rights in lieu of other rights and remedies.

What types of death benefits are available in workers compensation court to compensate surviving family members, spouse and dependent children?

Sadly, many nurses (RN and LPN), doctors, medical providers, anesthesiologist and nursing home employees died as a result of exposure to patients who had Cornavirus.  Rhode Island General Law§ 28-33-12 sets forth the compensation available to family members from the employer, if a worker dies as a result of Coronavirus which occurred at work.

“(a)(1) If death results from the injury, the employer shall pay the dependents of the employee wholly dependent upon his or her earnings for support at the time of his or her injury or death, whichever is the greater in number, a weekly payment equal to the rate that would have been payable for total incapacity to the deceased employee under the provisions of § 28-33-17, except as provided in this section in case the dependent is the surviving spouse or child under the age of eighteen (18) of that employee.

(2) If the dependent is a surviving spouse, or surviving spouse upon whom there is dependent one or more children of the deceased employee including an adopted child or stepchild under the age of eighteen (18) years or over that age but physically or mentally incapacitated from earning, the employer shall pay the surviving spouse the weekly rate for total incapacity the deceased employee would have been entitled to receive under the provisions of § 28-33-17 plus forty dollars ($40.00) per week for each dependent child. § 28-33-12″ Death benefits payable to dependents, Rhode Island General Law§ 28-33-12

Can the employer blame the victim for contracting Covid 19 and refuse benefits as a result?

If an occupational illness occurred at the workplace, pursuant to RI law 28-29-3, the employer cannot deny comp benefits alleging that the employee did not take proper precautions In an action to recover damages for personal injury sustained by an employee arising out of and in the course of his or her employment, connected with and referable to the employment, or for death resulting from personal injury so sustained, it shall not be a defense:

(1) That the employee was negligent;

(2) That the injury was caused by the negligence of a fellow employee;

(3) That the employee has assumed the risk of the injury. 28-29-3. Defenses abrogated as to injuries in course of employment.

Can a Coronavirus victim’s family, spouse or children file a wrongful death lawsuit against a third party for a work related death?

  • The victims’ survivors, spouse and family member can file a wrongful death lawsuit against third parties who are not their actual employees
  • In order to win a wrongful death lawsuit in Rhode Island for a work related Covid 19 infection against a third party entity, the victims’ family must prove that the third party was negligent.
  • The executor of the estate must retain a Rhode Island wrongful death lawyer.

Legislation in Illinois- creating rebuttable presumptions for first responders and certain front line workers

“On April 13, 2020, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission passed an emergency amendment that will make it easier for COVID-19 “first responders” and “front line workers” in Illinois to obtain workers’ compensation benefits for an injury or period of incapacity resulting from exposure to the COVID-19 virus during the COVID-19 state of emergency.”  National law review

“As defined by the emergency amendment, COVID-19 first responders and front line workers include individuals “employed as police, fire personnel, emergency medical technicians, or paramedics and all individuals employed and considered as first responders, health care providers engaged in patient care, correction officers and the crucial personnel” who work in “essential businesses and operations” identified in Governor Pritzker’s March 20 stay-at-home order.” Id.

“Under the emergency amendment, once a COVID-19 first responder or front line worker proves that the injury or period of incapacity resulted from exposure to the COVID-19 virus during the state of emergency (which began in Illinois on March 9), the worker need not prove that the exposure arose out of and in the course of employment or that the injury or period of incapacity was causally connected to the hazards or exposure from employment. Instead, the emergency amendment amends the rules of evidence in arbitration proceedings before the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, creating rebuttable presumptions that relieve the employee from proving these elements that a worker must typically prove in a workers’ compensation claim.” Id.

House Labor Committee Chairwoman Anastasia Williams will introduce legislation in Rhode Island

“House Labor Committee Chairwoman Anastasia Williams will introduce legislation in Rhode Island which would create a presumption for all frontline workers that their Covid 19 infections are presumed to be work related. A veteran state lawmaker is calling on Gov. Gina Raimondo to issue an executive order requiring that all front-line workers directly affected by coronavirus will have the illness presumed to be a work-related injury…House Labor Committee Chairwoman Anastasia Williams formally made the request on Monday in an email to the governor’s office, including a draft copy of the executive order. She told WPRI 12 she will introduce legislation with the same provisions if the governor does not take action herself….Under Williams’ proposal, the front-line workers category should include public safety personnel, government workers, janitors, public transit employees, grocery staff, retail clerks, truck and freight drivers, among others. Any of those workers who contract, have symptoms of or otherwise become affected with coronavirus shall have their medical condition or incapacity to work presumed to be work-related,” the draft order says. WPRI

“These selfless workers deserve to know that if the worst should happen and they become infected with COVID-19, that we recognize their sacrifice for our greater good, and their infection and recuperation should be deemed work-related,” Williams, D-Providence, said in a statement…In addition, Williams argues that public safety employees who are “incapacitated or unable to perform their duties as a result of the COVID-19 infection or exposure” shall have the time they spend hospitalized or quarantined classified as on-duty time, rather than being required to use paid time off such as sick days or vacation.” WPRI

“State Rep. Evan Shanley, D-Warwick, said he supports Williams’ proposal…Immediate action is required to support these courageous workers by affording them the basic protections afforded to injured workers under the Rhode Island Workers Compensation Act,” Shanley said in a statement. “The least we can do is tell these workers that their medical bills and families will be taken care of in the event they contract COVID-19.” Id.

California Governor Considers executive order

“A proposed executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom to substantially expand protections for coronavirus-infected employees who qualify for workers’ compensation insurance is raising concerns among leaders in the agriculture and business communities, who say it could cost billions of dollars…What many are opposed to is a recommendation that any essential employee who becomes infected with the coronavirus during the stay at home order will be covered by workers’ compensation insurance.” Fresno Bee

” In California, all employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance in the event a worker is injured on the job. The insurance is paid by the employer and covers medical costs and disability benefits for workers who become hurt or ill. But before the insurance can kick in, the employee has to show the illness or injury was connected to work.. Under the proposed changes, that fundamental requirement would be eliminated for essential workers.” Id.

“That means any COVID-19 illnesses or death sustained by essential workers — including farm workers, restaurant workers, health care workers and food processing workers — would automatically be deemed work-related and covered under workers’ compensation policies, according to the insurance industry group Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of California. The essential employees would be classified as having a “conclusive presumption” and not be required to prove their illness was work-related — as they would have in the past.” Id.

Vermont news

“Similar disagreements arose over the workers’ compensation bill in a Senate Economic Development Committee meeting on Tuesday. Stephen Monahan, director of the Workers’ Compensation and Safety Division in the Department of Labor, recommended narrowing the types of employees who could qualify for the benefit.” VT Digger

“By expanding workers’ comp claims to cover Covid-19, Monahan worried these claims could expand to cover seasonal flu, raising costs for employers.  “Workers’ compensation wasn’t designed as health care for all,” Monahan said. “So then why aren’t we covering the flu or some other thing that is contagious to the general population?” Id.

“David Mickenberg, a lobbyist for the Vermont Association for Justice, pushed back on Monahan’s suggestions. He said if essential workers do contract Covid-19 at work, they should be covered.  “I don’t think this is comparable to other types of diseases,” he said. “We’re in uncharted territory.” https://vtdigger.org/2020/04/24/covid-19-hazard-pay-workers-compensation-bills-move-through-senate-committees/

Reported news stories across the United States:

“A longtime Sonoma County nurse first felt sick in March, starting with a sore throat and stuffy nose, followed by a deep fatigue. Nearly two weeks later, a confirmation: she had contracted COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. But where did she get it? At the hospital where she works? Or somewhere else in the community? For her and other health care workers on the front lines, the answers to those questions are critical. They determine whether their treatment is covered by a limited bank of paid sick days and health insurance or by workers’ compensation, an employer-funded system that offers expanded benefits ­— including lost wages, job protection guarantees and death benefits — to workers who are hurt on the job.” North Bay Business journal https://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/industrynews/healthcare/10902138-181/sick-nurses-must-prove-coronavirus?ref=mostsection

“At least five smaller states have made it easier for high-risk workers such as doctors, nurses and firefighters to claim workers’ compensation benefits. But broad proposals have run into fierce headwinds in populous, high-cost states like Illinois, California and New York, where businesses and public employers alike warn such changes could thrust them into bankruptcy or force them to slash public services when they’re already teetering financially. It marks the latest battleground for labor unions and business groups trying to balance the financial and health risks of coronavirus with the need to provide essential services.” Politico

“Proponents led by the AFL-CIO are urging states to apply the same standard to all essential workers exposed to Covid-19, whether they bag groceries, tend to patients or pick fruit while the rest of workforce remains in the relative safety of their own homes.” Id.

Rhode Island workers compensation lawyer

You need to retain a top Rhode Island workers compensation lawyer or RI workers comp. law firm to represent you in your workers’ comp claim. In the event of a death arising out of employment, contact a top Rhode Island wrongful death lawyer.