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Does Workers Compensation Insurance cover Coronavirus exposures?

The North Carolina Workers Compensation Act is primarily geared towards compensating injuries by accident suffered at the work place, or a certain few listed occupational diseases like Asbestosis. For conditions which are not listed in the statute, North Carolina first asks whether the occupational disease is caused by conditions which are characteristic of the job. Secondly, North Carolina asks whether the worker was at an increased risk of being exposed to the dangerous conditions, versus someone in the general public.

It may be agreed that your average worker will be as exposed to the common cold as a member of the general public. North Carolinians come into contact with the common cold when we go to the grocery store, or to the gym. Someone working in a hospital may be no more likely to come into contact with the common cold than a cashier.

However, there is a lot that is yet unknown about the Coronavirus. "We all suspect it's the tip of the iceberg," said Liam Yore, a board member of the Washington state chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

"The risk to our health-care workers is one of the great vulnerabilities of our health-care system in an epidemic like this," he said. "Most ERs and health-care systems are running at capacity in normal times."

According to the Washington Post "Gauging how badly providers have been hit is difficult because no nationwide data has been released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, medical associations or health-care worker unions" the Post writes.

"In previous outbreaks of infectious disease, and in other countries where the current pandemic arrived earlier, health-care workers have experienced a disproportionate share of infections. They have been put at risk in the United States not only by the nature of their jobs, but by shortages of protective equipment such as N95 face masks..." https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/covid-19-hits-doctors-nurses-emts-threatening-health-system/2020/03/17/f21147e8-67aa-11ea-b313-df458622c2cc_story.html.

Given the unknowns regarding the Coronavirus, otherwise known as SARS-COV-2, and the disease caused by SARS-COV-2, COVID-19, there is not a firm answer from the State of North Carolina about whether healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses, CNA's, Physical Therapists, and Physician's assistants will qualify for Workers Compensation protection.

It is however important to document and report any potential exposure you may have had to the Coronavirus if you work in healthcare services. In North Carolina, workers compensation claims are filed using a Form 18, which is promulgated by the state Industrial Commission. Attorneys practicing workers compensation law are extremely familiar with these forms, and file them on a daily basis.

John Ayers and Christian Ayers have litigated many types of occupational disease claims. We are here to answer your questions about the laws in North Carolina, and how they may impact your rights if you suffer an occupational exposure to Coronavirus. You may call us at (704) 377-5050 at any time to set up a free consultation.

In light of the concerns surrounding the Covid-19 disease and SARS-COV-2, we are pleased to offer video and telephone conferences. We look forward to your call.

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