Since March 2020, Virginia and the United States has been afflicted with the Covid 19 pandemic. Nonetheless, people have had to go to work. Often, the work exposes the worker to Covid. If one is infected with the virus, this can mean medical bills, loss of time from work and even disability. If an infection occurs at work in Virginia, the worker may wonder if his/her employer’s workers’ compensation insurance will cover this. In Virginia the answer is complicated.
First, On July 1, 2021 Virginia enacted a new law that provides a presumption that a health care workers and first responders who acquired Covid acquired it at work. This law is retroactive to March 22, 2020 and expires December 31, 2021. This should allow health care workers and first responders to obtain workers’ compensation coverage if they acquired Covid during this period.
Second, if the worker is a fireman or policeman and acquires the disease, there may be a chance for coverage.
Third, if the worker is in a service industry such as retail or a waiter, it may be very difficult to obtain coverage through your employer. This is so because the virus is something the public is exposed to and not just the worker who is in retail or who is a waiter.
If the worker does have an infection, then the employee can request coverage from his employer’s insurance carrier. If coverage is denied, then it would be wise to seek the advice and counsel of a lawyer who is experienced with Virginia Workers’ Compensation law. A claim would be filed with the Commission. If the carrier still denies it, then the Commission will schedule a hearing before a Deputy Commissioner. At the hearing the claimant can testify and present evidence about his exposure. The Deputy Commissioner will have to decide if the exposure meets the requirements of a compensable ordinary disease of life. The law that governs this is Va Code Section 65.2-401. If the worker is not a health care worker, a fireman or a policeman, then the employee will probably have to establish he or she did not acquire the disease outside the workplace which may be an insurmountable obstacle. Also, the sick worker will probably have to establish work exposure by a clear and convincing evidence standard under the statute. Unfortunately, under the law, it can be very hard for this type of problem to be covered.
In some states, the governments have decided that the disease will be covered if there is a showing the worker acquired it in the work place. The practical problem is how can one show it was acquired in the work place and not from the public at large? It seems to be pretty well-known at this time that the virus can be acquired anywhere.
Virginia has not taking any steps to extend coverage in Covid 19 cases at this time in workers’ compensation cases.