On April 13, 2020, CNN reported that New York State had more coronavirus patients than any other country in the world (except for the U.S.). As of April 11, 2020, the total number of reported cases was 181,026, which surpassed the numbers reported in Spain (161,852) and Italy (152,271).
Many New York employers who could not transition their operations online have responded by sending their employees home indefinitely. Others have continued to require staff to report for work, creating concerns about what a person’s rights are if they are infected by COVID-19 on the job.
Can you claim New York workers’ compensation?
If you are employed in New York and receive a regular wage, then you are generally eligible for workers’ compensation if an occupational injury or illness affects your ability to work. As a general rule, independent contractors seeking compensation for a work-related COVID-19 diagnosis have to pursue a negligence claim against the client involved.
To receive workers’ compensation, an employee must prove that they contracted coronavirus on the job instead of at the store, on public transit, or another location. Proving this connection can be challenging because COVID-19 symptoms can appear anywhere between two to 14 days after exposure.
Infectious disease cases can be tricky for many reasons, which is why case law appears to fluctuate on the subject. The 1949 case Lyden v. United Hospital found that healthcare workers exposed to tuberculosis could claim workers’ compensation if they contracted the disease, even if they could not identify when they were infected. However, in Buckley v. Gallagher Bros. Sand & Gravel Corp., the court stated that a bookkeeper could not apply because she caught tuberculosis from a colleague, and the disease was not caused by her occupation itself.
Does it matter where you contracted COVID-19 at work?
It is important to note that you don’t generally need to have contracted the illness at your office, store, or another normal workplace. You are only required to prove that you were acting within the scope of your employment when you become ill. Examples of qualifying situations include:
- Going to a store to pick up work supplies
- Meeting with clients
- Attending an industry conference
- Traveling for work purposes
In New York, workers’ compensation is no-fault, meaning that your employer does not have to be directly responsible for your exposure to the virus. The key element is that you became sick while carrying out the terms of your employment.
If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 and have reason to believe that you became ill while working, then contact a New York personal injury attorney with experience in presenting complicated workers’ compensation claims. The coronavirus has introduced new and legally complex liability questions, and obtaining counsel is the best way to protect your rights.
Jayson Lutzky is a Bronx, New York personal injury attorney. If you have questions regarding an accident, then call his office at 718-329-9500. He offers free consultations by phone and video during the COVID-19 pandemic.