COVID has altered our lives to the point that they are almost unrecognizable. Masks, social distancing, daily temperature checks and waiting lists for the vaccine are all a normal part of our everyday lives. In addition, we must recognize and appreciate those who are putting their lives on the line to help fight the pandemic everyday at work.
What is COVID 19?
COVID 19 (or Corona Virus Disease 2019) is an infectious disease that causes mild to moderate respiratory illness in most people. However, in the at risk population, more serious illness can develop because of COVID 19, including death from complications. The at risk population includes those with cancer, chronic kidney disease, obesity, down syndrome, COPD, a weakened immune system and pregnant women to name a few.
Human coronavirus itself is not new and was first identified in the mid-1960s. The coronavirus’ known previously caused the common cold. However, the particular virus that causes COVID 19 is new (novel) and can result in chronic and severe illness.
The virus can spread by human contact when a person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks or breathes. COVID 19 can be spread by infected people who do not have symptoms. The CDC and WHO have recommended the use of masks, hand washing and social distancing as a means of preventing the spread of COVID 19.
In NC, as of January 2021, 736,000 cases of COVID 19 have been reported with 8,959 deaths. You can find a testing center near you by looking here. At the time of this writing (February 2021), a COVID 19 vaccine is being given (for free) to healthcare workers, long-term care staff, nursing home residents (Group 1) and older adults (Group 2 -anyone 65 years or older). Younger individuals and non-health care workers are still waiting for the vaccine to be available to them.
NC Workers’ Compensation Overview
NC Workers’ Compensation is available to employees who are injured while completing their job duties. NC Workers’ Compensation benefits cover “injury by accident” and “occupational disease.” Medical compensation and wage loss benefits for non-fatal injuries and death benefits for fatal injuries are available for those that qualify. NC Workers’ Compensation claims are governed by the North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC).
NC Workers’ Compensation for COVID 19
The NCIC has given the following advice regarding NC Workers’ Compensation for COVID 19:
“To establish an occupational disease claim for COVID-19 under the NCWCA, an employee must show: 1) that the employment exposed him or her to greater risk of contracting the disease than the general public, and 2) that the employment caused him or her to contract the disease.
To establish an injury by accident claim for COVID-19 under the NCWCA, the employee must show that the infection was contracted due to an accident (as defined by North Carolina law as an interruption of the normal job routine) arising out of, and occurring in the course of, the employee’s employment.”
While the NCIC has published the above information on COVID-19, it should be noted that their treatment of COVID 19 is no different than their treatment of any other injury by accident or occupational disease. At this point, the process for receiving NC Workers’ Compensation for COVID 19 is no difference than that of receiving workers’ compensation for a broken arm.
Occupational disease claims can be harder to win than injury by accident. The NCIC has a specific list (NCGS 97-53) of occupational diseases that are recognized and to date, COVID-19 has not been added to this list. Diseases not specifically mentioned in this statute have the additional burden of proving increased risk of exposure. Risk of exposure would be easier to demonstrate for a healthcare worker working in the COVID-19 section of a hospital emergency room, but for others it may be difficult to prove.
The Bishop Law Firm represents injured workers in Raleigh, Cary, Durham, Fayetteville, Smithfield, Rocky Mount, Wilson, Chapel Hill, Roanoke Rapids, Louisburg and other areas in North Carolina. We do not get paid unless you win and we offer free case reviews, (919) 615-3095.
Please wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands and avoid crowds. Be safe!