Can I Sue My Employer for Exposure to COVID-19 at Work?
Obtaining Compensation If You Contracted COVID-19 on the Job
Early in 2020, the world was shocked by COVID-19. Since then, an estimated 900,000 people have died, and millions have fallen ill. Many businesses quickly shifted to allow employees to work from home, but some remained open. If you were exposed to COVID-19 and became ill or lost a loved one, you might be entitled to compensation.
At Levin & Nalbandyan, we represent individuals who have suffered a workplace injury or illness. We handle workers’ compensation claims and personal injury lawsuits on behalf of clients who fell sick or lost a loved one due to an employer’s failure to provide a safe workplace.
If you or a family member contracted COVID-19 at work, contact our office at (219) 513-5614 for a free, confidential case evaluation.
Proving Exposure to COVID-19 at Work
One of the main obstacles to obtaining compensation from your employer after contracting COVID-19 is that you must prove the exposure occurred at work or from a job-related activity. A case is strengthened if you can trace your infection back to a symptomatic employee.
Proving liability, however, may be challenging without legal counsel. It is essential to consult with an attorney as early as possible. An attorney can help prove that the source of your infection was from your workplace and not another environment.
Failure to Provide a Safe Work Environment
In addition to proving the source of the infection, an employee may be hindered if they cannot show that the employer failed to provide a safe work environment.
Indications that your employer failed to provide a safe work environment:
- Did the company receive notice of symptomatic employees?
- Did the employer provide personal protective equipment such as face masks and gloves?
- Were social distancing standards established?
- Was there a work-from-home option?
- Were state and local safety regulations followed?
- What were the industry health standards?
- Did the employer have a COVID-19 policy in place?
- Were symptomatic/COVID-19 positive employees required to quarantine?
Ultimately, it must be determined what steps the employer took to prevent the spread of the virus and whether they adhered to guidance from state and local health officials.
Can I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Under most circumstances, a worker who contracts an illness or suffers an injury on the job would file a workers’ compensation claim.
Pursuant to California law, most employers are required to provide workers’ compensation coverage. Workers’ compensation benefits may cover all of your job illness or injury-related costs, including medical expenses, permanent and temporary disability, and more. It is strongly recommended that you consult with an attorney to file a workers’ compensation claim to ensure that you receive full benefits.
While workers’ compensation is generally the exclusive remedy for employees who become sick or suffer an injury on the job, you can file a personal injury lawsuit under some circumstances. An experienced lawyer can help determine whether you should file a personal injury lawsuit to obtain compensation.
What If I Infect a Family Member?
In December 2021, the California Court of Appeal allowed a wrongful death lawsuit to proceed where an employee allegedly contracted COVID-19 while at work and spread the disease to her husband, who subsequently died.
According to the opinion, the plaintiff was an employee at See’s Candy in California, where she claims she contracted COVID-19. While she recovered at home, her spouse became ill with the disease and died. Plaintiffs argue that the company failed to adhere to safety protocols that would have prevented the spread of the virus.
While the court did not address whether a duty exists to a non-employee spouse or whether the company’s negligence resulted in the employee contracting COVID-19, it did allow the lawsuit to move forward. It rejected the defendant’s argument that the derivative injury doctrine applied, which would limit a plaintiff’s recovery to workers’ compensation as the exclusive remedy.
Contracted COVID-19 at Work? Contact Our Office to Discuss Your Rights.
Did you contract COVID-19 while at work? Contact our office for a free, confidential consultation. At Levin & Nalbandyan, we are experienced trial lawyers that can help you obtain compensation for your injuries or the loss of your loved one. Call our office at (219) 513-5614 to discuss whether you should file a workers’ compensation claim or file a personal injury lawsuit.