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Can I Get Workers’ Compensation If I Get Sick at Work?

Getting sick is at the forefront of everyone’s mind right now. COVID-19 has dominated the social consciousness for most of the year, and for good reason. However, we are also about to enter the flu season. These two highly-contagious illnesses are likely to spread across the country.

This has become a source of concern for many people, particularly those who work in close proximity to others. Service industry workers, factory workers, and more have a higher potential for exposure to these illnesses.

However, you don’t need to be working a cash register to be susceptible to contracting a contagious illness. Even people working in offices are liable to fall victim to the flu or COVID-19.

So what course of action can you take if you are infected with an illness while at work? Most people are familiar with workers’ compensation for situations such as slip-and-falls. But does workers’ compensation also apply to those who get sick?

Illnesses Are a Legitimate Claim

Illness is a compensable claim. However, this is not always as easy as it should be. The Tennessean reports that just under 59% of claims relating to COVID-19 were approved between March 1st and August 16th.

A few states don’t cover “ordinary diseases of life” such as the flu, but will cover “occupational diseases.” So what’s the difference? These are illnesses that can be proved to have been contracted while at work.

Tennessee will cover illnesses as a workers’ compensation claims. However, keep in mind that it can be difficult to prove where you contracted the illness. COVID-19 is very easily spread, which means there are a variety of potential sources. It’s up to the worker to prove the employer contributed more than 50% in causing the illness.

You Must Prove You Got Sick at Work

As we said, these illnesses are highly contagious. This makes it much more difficult to prove it was contracted while on the job. However, this is an essential part of a successful workers’ compensation claim.

The type of work you perform can impact the likelihood of proving this. For instance, it can be much easier to prove exposure to a contagious virus if you work in a medical setting — nurse, doctor, or nursing home attendant.

Has your place of employment had a series of positive cases in a short amount of time? This can also help show causality.

Any form of proof that you contracted the illness while on the job will bolster your workers’ compensation claim.

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Reporting Your Claim

Employees must notify their supervisor of a work-related injury or illness. This is what starts the claims process.

The state requires this notification to be made within 15 days of noticing a work-related issue or once a doctor identifies your issue as related to your work. However, alerting management to your issue as soon as possible will make the process quicker.

See an Approved Doctor

If you haven’t already seen a doctor, you need to speak with your workplace to find a doctor that is approved by their insurance. Your workplace will provide you with form C-42 which will be signed by both yourself and your employer. This lists three approved doctors to choose from.

Keep a copy of this form for your records.

Possible Compensation

An employee will be compensated if the injury or illness is deemed to be work-related.

First, all medical costs will be covered. This will most likely be done by the insurance company, although they will occasionally deny certain procedures. Issues with this can be brought to the attention of the Bureau's Utilization Review Program.

This medical coverage also extends into the future for anything relating to the initial claim. COVID-19, for instance, has the potential to create long-term consequences for those that contract it.

The employee won’t be able to work throughout the time they are sick with an illness. They will be entitled to temporary disability benefits. This replaces lost wages starting on the eighth day of the disability. However, if the illness keeps a person from work for longer than 14 days, benefits will be paid back to the first day.

Any expenses from traveling over 15 miles to an approved medical professional are also liable for reimbursement.

What Do I Do If My Claim Is Denied?

You have the right to challenge a denied claim for workers’ compensation. You can call an ombudsman at (800) 332-2667 to raise your issue.

However, these legal challenges can often be confusing. The workplace injury lawyers at Bart Durham Injury Law have been fighting for workers’ rights for decades. Do you feel a workers’ compensation claim was wrongly denied? Have you faced retribution from your employer as a result of making a claim? Contact our office today to set up a free consultation.

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