If you were exposed to COVID-19 at work, did you know you might be able to seek compensation just like you would for a work-related injury? If your illness or death of a loved one was caused by an employer’s failure to protect you from the spread of COVID-19, you might have reason to sue. However, if you are employed by a company that does not subscribe to workers’ compensation insurance, you have an even better chance of receiving damages. Here’s why.
Added Risk for the Employer
Because Texas law allows employers the option to opt-out of subscribing to workers’ compensation insurance, they are at higher risk of losses if they potentially contributed to an employee’s exposure to COVID-19. They are responsible as the defendant to prove that they did everything in their power to help protect their employees from the highly contagious and potentially lethal illness. Without workers’ compensation, workers have a right to pursue what is called common law defenses. This means the employer must prove the employee was solely responsible for their illness and therefore they are not responsible to pay the employee damages.
Workplace Exposure to COVID-19
There are many factors that come into play when trying to show a workplace is unsafe. For example, in the case of a slip and fall, the floors would come into play. Were they well maintained? Were they wet? The lighting might also play a role in the investigation as if an area is too dark it can make it difficult to spot hazards. On the flip side, the plaintiff’s actions would be questioned. Were they looking at their phone instead of where they were going? Were they wearing unsafe shoes, running, or behaving irresponsibly when the accident occurred?
When looking at a COVID-19 claim, things might be more difficult to prove or disprove for either side. Because there were constant changes to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CD), it might be harder for an employer to avoid hazards. With frequent modifications, a business might be doing its best to keep up, yet fail, which opens up the playing field for claims.
Employers Avoiding COVID-19 Workplace Risks
Because the pandemic presents new risks for both the employer and their staff, employees who suffer illness or death due to the virus should always look into their rights and speak to a lawyer. Although their employer might seem to have taken precautions, legally it might still leave a door open to pursue compensation. Your employer might not have taken steps to comply with governmental workplace safety recommendations. Your lawyer will investigate what information your employer was provided and when. They will look into what your employer did once they received the information and what steps were or weren’t taken to provide a safe environment to protect you from contracting COVID-19.
Investigating COVID-19 Protocols
An experienced non-subscriber lawyer understands what the employer needs to do and will conduct a thorough investigation to look for possible areas where your employer dropped the ball. Employers have certain obligations to ensure they conform to both state and federal guidelines. A lawyer will collect testimonials from other employees, as well as explore what steps were missed both from a safety and human resources standpoint to ensure employees were kept safe.
If you contracted COVID-19 from a non-subscriber workplace, or a loved one suffered a severe illness or even death, speak to the Malley team to learn about your rights to compensation.