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FAQs: Florida Workers’ Compensation Laws and Coronavirus (COVID-19)

As Coronavirus wreaks havoc on our way of life, employees have to fear for their safety just by going to work. Many employees have no choice but to continue to work with the public as part of their day-to-day duties, including grocery workers, restaurant employees offering take-out business, emergency responders, healthcare workers, support workers and more.

If you contract Coronavirus, you might wonder if you can claim workers’ compensation. The answer may be yes. Our Florida workers’ compensation attorneys have put together Coronavirus workers’ compensation FAQs to help you get some answers.

Can you get workers’ compensation for Coronavirus?

Yes, you may be able to get workers’ compensation for Coronavirus. You have to show that you contracted Coronavirus because of a unique risk or exposure hazard at work. It’s not an easy burden to meet, especially if you have an illness that is easily contracted from others or in public places, like Coronavirus.

However, Coronavirus and stay-at-home orders are changing the landscape. While other workers are waiting out the quarantine periods at home, some employees have to go work with the public each day. For this reason, these workers may very well be able to prove that the cause of their Coronavirus infection is work. An employee who has a high risk of exposure and who contracts Coronavirus because of work may be able to get compensation for Coronavirus.

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I heard the State of Florida made special rules for Coronavirus workers’ compensation. What are the rules?

The special rules for Coronavirus workers’ compensation are found in the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Directive 2020-05. The rules apply only to state frontline employees. They do not apply to private-sector workers, although the directive may be instructive for how workers’ compensation claims may be handled in the private sector.State of Florida CFO Directive 2020-05 says that Florida is going to honor workers’ compensation claims for frontline employees. Covered employees are state employees who work directly with the public in roles such as police officers, healthcare workers, family protective services investigators and emergency responders. Rules say that the burden is on the state to prove that the source of the Coronavirus is a source other than the employee’s work. In general, state frontline workers who contract Coronavirus can expect to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

How are special workers’ compensation rules different for Coronavirus in the State of Florida?

The special workers’ compensation rules stated in CFO Directive 2020-05 change the burden of proof when it comes to a workers’ compensation claim. In most occupational illness claims, the worker has the responsibility to prove that they contracted the illness at work. In the case of an illness that is common to the general public, the burden is particularly difficult. The worker must prove that they are particularly susceptible to the illness because of the nature of their work.However, CFO directive 2020-05 places the burden back on the state if they wish to deny a claim. The worker must prove that they have COVID-19 and that they have medical expenses, lost work or both. If the state wants to deny the claim, they have to prove that the worker did not contract COVID-19 from work. It’s usually the employee who has to prove the connection between work and their illness. However, in cases of COVID-19, the roles are reversed.

What should I do if I think I got Coronavirus at work?

If you think that you were exposed to Coronavirus at work, you should tell your employer immediately. They should assist you in filling out the necessary paperwork to make a report. You should also get tested right away as part of a complete medical evaluation. A workers’ compensation attorney can help you make your claim and document your exposures to Coronavirus at work.

What state laws apply to a Coronavirus workers’ compensation claim?

Florida law Chapter 440, 440.01 et seq applies to Coronavirus workers’ compensation claims. Generally, Florida’s workers’ compensation laws that were already in place apply to Coronavirus claims, with the exception that CFO directive 2020-05 clarifies how cases are going to be interpreted for state employees. Florida law 440.09 says that the employer’s insurance must pay workers’ compensation benefits if the employee has an accidental, compensable injury that occurs in the course and scope of employment.
Florida law 440.151 says that the employer is not liable unless the disease results specifically from the nature of the employment. The danger must be a particular hazard of employment. Florida law 440.151(2) says that common diseases that the general public are exposed to are excluded from coverage. However, ordinary diseases of life may still be covered if the risk of contracting the disease is higher for the employee than for the general public.

Can I get workers’ compensation for stress related to the Coronavirus crisis?

Usually not. In order to get workers’ compensation for stress related to the Coronavirus crisis, you must also have a physical injury. For example, if you contract Coronavirus, and you also need treatment for anxiety and stress, you can include the treatment as part of your workers’ compensation claim. However, Florida law 440.93 does not allow workers’ compensation for mental health and stress-related injuries unless you also have a physical injury.

How do I make a workers’ compensation claim for Coronavirus?

You make a workers’ compensation claim for Coronavirus in the same way that you make all other kinds of workers’ compensation claims. You report the injury to your employer as soon as possible. You must report your illness within 30 days after you contract the virus or learn that it is work-related. Do not be deterred if the person who takes the report is negative or tells you that you can’t have coverage. They do not make the final determination. Your employer should provide information about the necessary steps to finalize your report and document your losses. You have the right to assistance from the workers’ compensation attorney of your choice.

Do I need a Coronavirus workers’ compensation attorney?

Coronavirus workers’ compensation claims are new. You only have one chance to win your claim and receive justice. Our workers’ compensation attorneys know how to get results, so let our team handle each step of your case with you. We’re dedicated to tackling complex legal issues and helping our clients get results. Your consultation is free and confidential. Call us today.

About the Author

Jack G. Bernstein, ESQ.

Jack Bernstein is a hard working and highly motivated personal injury attorney in Miami, Florida with over three decades of experience. He is a strategist and idea person, with a genuine passion for helping his firm’s clients. If you've been injured, contact Jack Bernstein today for a free evaluation of your case.

The information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.