Apart from the fact that frontline workers are at high risk of exposure to the virus, there is also incredible pressure on them to double their efforts in the workplace despite health hazards
ROANOKE, Va. (PRWEB) April 16, 2020
Jaleh Slominski, a workers compensation attorney at Slominski Law based in Lynchburg and Roanoke VA, forecasts, as frontline workers work grueling shifts serving COVID-19 related customers and patients, the added occupational weight may prompt an increase in workers’ compensation claims.
“Apart from the fact that frontline workers are at high risk of exposure to the virus, there is also incredible pressure on them to double their efforts in the workplace despite health hazards,” says Slominski. “Already, some store workers and medical staff are wondering if their added physical exertions might give rise to a claim.”
Ms. Slominski, who has been practicing for almost 30 years, anticipates increased injury claims from added workloads and longer hours during the pandemic.
She cites, for instance, that employees at medical facilities have started feeling fatigue and muscular strains from the long hours of standing, walking, and transporting patients and medical supplies. Workers at retail stores, stockrooms, and warehouses are also at increased risk of physical injuries as they move merchandise amid frenzied retail demand and adjusted retail hours.
“Frontline workers are in industry sectors that already had high injury numbers even before the pandemic broke out,” she says. “In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that healthcare is the number one sector in terms of number of occupational injuries and illnesses. Retail trade is third on that list.”
“Since these are already hazardous sectors, we can expect that the added physical strain on their workers could drive up injury incidences.”
On top of injury claims, Ms. Slominski believes that workers’ comp claims citing COVID-19 may develop in the following weeks and months ahead. She does note, however, that there is still a question over whether such claims will be covered by the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act.
“Generally, compensable illnesses are those that arise out of and in the course of employment,” she explains. “We’ll have to establish that the COVID-19 contraction really was work-related and not just because it’s a public health hazard that everyone now faces.”
At least two states, Washington State and Kentucky, have guaranteed coronavirus benefits for their first responders and health workers. There is a presumption that COVID-19 is an occupational hazard in their line of work. COVID-19 claims outside these sectors, however, will be decided on a case-to-case basis.
Virginia does not yet have a special workers’ comp consideration for the medical and healthcare sectors, says Ms. Slominski. At least for now, medical and health workers who are considering a COVID-19 claim in Virginia will still be subject to regular workers’ comp standards – they will still have to prove that their virus contraction is occupational.
The lawyer emphasizes that despite these anticipated increases in injuries and illnesses, the standards for workers’ comp claims in Virginia remain the same, at least for the time being.
“This can mean an uphill climb for claimants,” she explains. “Say you developed chronic back pain because you were overworked. Or you contracted the virus because you work at a crowded hospital, or because your grocery store employer didn’t provide protective gear. Under our current state rules, you’d have to prove that you really got sick at work. But it’s challenging to prove this because your condition could also have developed outside the workplace.”
What recourse is available for workers with coronavirus or pandemic-related injuries?
“In these uncertain times, when even legal rules are still playing catch-up, consulting a lawyer is the best step,” says Ms. Slominski. She stresses that workers should document any relevant detail about their illness or injury, including times of possible exposure and contact with possible carriers such as fellow employees or vendors. If you suddenly feel sick at work, report that to your supervisor. These details should be discussed with a worker’s compensation attorney.
“COVID-19 is new and it’s not in the rulebook yet, but a good workers’ compensation attorney can ensure that your claim gets fair treatment under existing guidelines.”
About Slominski Law
Slominski Law is a law firm with offices in Lynchburg and Ronoake VA. It offers experienced legal service in workers’ compensation claims, personal injury and wrongful death cases, and Lemon Law claims. Attorney Jaleh Slominski, Esquire, has been practicing law since 1991. She is a member of the Virginia State Bar, the Lynchburg Bar Association and the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association. For more information visit https://www.slominskilaw.com.
Slominski Law (Lynchburg)
101 Duncraig Drive #103
Lynchburg, VA 24502
Slominski Law (Roanoke)
22 Luck Ave
Roanoke, VA 24011