Our healthcare workers deserve additional legal protections as they risk their lives during this crisis
MANASSAS, Va. (PRWEB) April 12, 2020
The Reed Law Firm, of Manassas, Virginia is presently circulating a Petition though Change.org to protect the interests and rights of Virginia’s healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. This Petition is seeking the creation of a statutory presumption in favor of healthcare workers who contract COVID-19. Without this presumption, healthcare workers will be forced to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that they did not contract COVID-19 from a source outside of their employment. This high burden of proof will be impossible for many to meet, and their claims for compensation will likely be denied without this critical amendment.
Healthcare workers throughout Virginia are risking their lives on a daily basis to care for COVID-19 patients. Sadly, many of them have or will become infected with COVID-19, as a direct result of their treatment and care of infected patients. It is likely that a percentage of these workers will become severely ill, or die, as a result of complications from this disease. This crisis is far from over, and many more illnesses and deaths can reasonably be expected. It is because of this that an urgent amendment is required to Virginia’s existing workers’ compensation laws, to protect our healthcare workers.
In addition to seeking a statutory presumption, the Petition is also seeking an amendment to the permanent partial disability statute, so that healthcare workers are also able to receive permanent partial disability benefits as a result of COVID-19 infection. There is substantial evidence that COVID-19 infections can result in permanent loss of lung capacity. Enumeration of COVID-19 lung damage under Section 65.2-503 of the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act will allow healthcare workers to recover for permanent injuries to their lungs that occur as a result of infection. Without inclusion of this amendment, these permanent injuries will not be compensable.
Statutory presumptions with respect to occupational diseases currently exist for the protection and benefit of police and fire fighters. Virginia enacted the Heart and Lung presumption in 1976. This statute is also known as “The Police and Firefighter Heart and Lung bill.” This heart and lung presumption establishes, as a matter of law, a connection between certain occupations and some specific diseases – even if medical evidence proving the causal connection is absent. The brave men and women fighting daily in the medical field to treat COVID-19 patients deserve the same statutory presumption as police and firefighters.
The COVID-19 Pandemic requires the immediate attention of the Virginia General Assembly to recognize the inherent danger that healthcare workers are being subjected to every day. Healthcare workers and their families should not be subjected to protracted litigation arising from an assertion that their COVID-19 infections or deaths were not related to their employment, when we know that this is unlikely to be true.
To alleviate the above referenced concerns, we have drafted common sense modifications to the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act that will create a statutory presumption in favor of healthcare workers that are infected with COVID-19. These amendments will create a presumption that healthcare related COVID-19 infections are compensable occupational diseases. As with the Heart and Lung Presumption enacted in 1976, this will relieve healthcare workers from the difficulty they may have proving that their diagnosed COVID-19 infections are related to their employment. It also serves a very real and valid public purpose by supporting and encouraging Virginia’s healthcare workers who risk their lives to keep our citizens safe during this crisis.
Due to the rapid and evolving nature of this crisis, time is of the essence. Because amendments to the Virginia Workers Compensation Act cannot be applied retroactively, a special session should be called by the Virginia General Assembly to vote on a statutory amendment to protect Virginia’s healthcare workers. For more information about the proposed amendments please contact Richard M. Reed at the Reed Law Firm at 703-530-8810 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org