This past year has been overwhelming for a lot of us. The COVID-19 Pandemic has wreaked havoc on our nation and affected the lives of so many. I’ve been getting a lot of calls from people exposed to COVID-19 at work, been gravely ill, and they just don’t know where to turn for help.
The Virginia General Assembly has recently passed a bill to bring some relief to those serving on the front lines of our healthcare system.
House Bill 1985 expanded workers’ compensation benefits for health care workers “directly involved in diagnosing or treating persons known or suspected to have COVID-19,” including doctors and nurses. The bill provides coverage from March 12, 2020 until Dec. 31, 2021.
Senate Bill 1375 and HB 2207 cover workers’ compensation for first responders who are diagnosed or died from COVID-19 on or after Sept. 1 of last year. The measures include firefighters, police officers, correctional and regional jail officers and emergency medical services workers. The bills require an official diagnosis through a positive COVID-19 test and symptoms of the disease.
The new law presumes that death or disability from COVID-19 for healthcare workers who have had contact with a known COVID positive patient is an occupational hazard, allowing them to collect workers compensation insurance benefits.
The bill allows potentially hundreds of workers to claim benefits they were previously denied because of the difficulty of proving where a worker was infected with COVID-19.
If, however, the employer offered a vaccine and the worker refused, the presumption does not apply. The bill contains an exception for people with a medical condition that puts them at risk from a vaccine.
This is progress, but not a 100% victory. This basically only covers healthcare workers and not all workers such as individuals who work in food production or factories that have an outbreak. This is new legislation and I do see the potential for appeals by insurance companies on the “retroactive” clause in this new bill. The new law goes into effect July 1, 2021 but covers exposure going back to March 12,2020. The cost for covering medical treatment alone for COVID-19 can reach to the thousands, if not the hundreds of thousands that insurance companies will not want to pay. This is especially true for long haulers that have permanent long term debilitating symptoms from COVID.
This new legislation doesn’t become law until 7/1/21 so many injured workers and lawyers are waiting for this date to file their cases. However, I have already assisted a few nurses and health care workers in their fight for Workers Comp benefits after the devastating COVID-19 virus left them unable to work and drowning in medical bills.
These are uncharted waters folks. The bill is still new and there are still thousands of healthcare workers battling the aftermath of this virus. You are going to need help navigating the workers compensation process for this new legislation. Contact an experienced lawyer to fight on your behalf.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: MICHELE LEWANE
The Injured Workers Law Firm is a Richmond, Virginia based firm solely focused on serving clients with workers’ compensation claims in Virginia. If you have questions about your benefits or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order our book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” , or call our office today at (804) 755-7755.
About the Author: Michele Lewane
The Injured Workers Law Firm is a Richmond, Virginia based firm solely focused on serving clients with workers' compensation claims in Virginia. If you have questions about your benefits or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order our book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” , or call our office today (804) 755-7755.