November 15th, 2021
“Long COVID” or “long-haul COVID” refers to a situation in which a person who was exposed to the coronavirus continues to experience symptoms for weeks and even months afterward. Symptoms of long COVID may include memory loss, headaches, upset stomach, loss of appetite, and fatigue, as well as chest pain, shortness of breath, joint or muscle pain, and difficulty concentrating. Many COVID long haulers say that they do not feel healthy, do not feel back to themselves, and feel like their body is still fighting something.
While doctors and scientists have not determined why some people suffer from long-haul COVID and others do not, it is clear that the long-term health issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will be with us for a long time.
Unemployment Insurance During the COVID-19 Pandemic
In the early days of the pandemic, the federal government moved quickly to establish unemployment insurance coverage for workers who were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Benefits were established under the CARES Act and renewed by the Continued Assistance Act of December 2020 and the American Rescue Plan of 2021.
For people who were exposed to the coronavirus at work and are suffering from long COVID, the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice have provided guidance on whether long COVID will be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Affordable Care Act.
But workers’ compensation claims are administered at the state level. Currently, most state Bureaus of Workers’ Compensation are allowing claims for indemnity only. They provide support income while a worker is out recovering from the virus, but do not pay for the cost of medical treatment.
However, the situation might change as COVID treatment is moving towards being classified as a disability and doctors understand more about the damage that can be caused by people who suffer from long COVID.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits for COVID Long Haulers
Workers’ compensation benefits may be available to employees who were diagnosed with COVID-19 and were exposed to the coronavirus at work. The problem, however, is that it can be difficult for a worker to prove where they were exposed to COVID-19.
To successfully establish coverage under workers’ compensation, a worker must demonstrate that their illness was caused by workplace activities or from environmental conditions within the workplace.
In certain circumstances, particularly for first responders and healthcare providers, COVID-19 may be considered an occupational disease. To receive workers’ compensation benefits for COVID-19, an employee or dependent of the employee must establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the occupational disease arose out of and in the course of his or her employment. See, NRS 617.358.
Under NRS 617.440, to establish that the occupational disease arose out of and in the course of employment, the employee must show:
- A direct and causal connection between the conditions under which work was performed and the occupational disease;
- That the occupational disease followed as a natural incident of the work as a result of the exposure occasioned by the nature of the employment;
- The occupational disease can be fairly traced to the employment as the proximate cause;
- The occupational disease did not come from a hazard to which the worker would have been exposed outside of the employment.
- The disease must be incidental to the character of the business and not independent of the relation between the employer and employee; and
- The disease need not have been foreseen or expected, but must appear to have had as its origin a risk connected with the employment and have flowed naturally from that source.
Certain Occupations More Likely to Have COVID-19 Claims Covered
The biggest obstacle to being one of the COVID long haulers covered under workers’ compensation is that it is a communicable disease, which makes it difficult to prove that a worker contracted COVID-19 in the course and scope of their employment.
Historically, workers’ compensation has not covered communicable diseases like a cold or the flu precisely because it is too difficult to prove that the illness was contracted in the course and scope of employment.
However, infectious diseases like COVID may be covered if you come into contact with sick people as part of your job. If you are a first responders or other healthcare provider, you are at an increased risk of exposure. That makes it more likely that COVID-19 will be treated as an occupational illness and covered under workers’ compensation. But if you were simply exposed to a sick person at work, it is unlikely that your workers’ compensation claim for COVID-19 will be covered.
But if you successfully have a claim for COVID-19 covered under workers’ compensation, you should be able to extend your benefits.
What To Do If You Believe You Contracted COVID-19 at Work
If you contract COVID-19 and believe it was due to your employment, you need to notify your employer within 7 days of discovering that you have the illness. You can do this by completing a Notice of Accident/Illness (C-1) form.
You must also seek medical treatment within 90 days of discovering the illness and must complete a Claim for Compensation (C-4) form to document your treatment.
Fighting for Compensation During the COVID-19 Pandemic
If you are one of the COVID long haulers and believe you were exposed to the virus at work, you may be entitled to compensation. Nevada workers’ compensation attorney Natalia Vander Laan represents people in Minden, Gardnerville, Stateline, and Carson City, Nevada who were injured at work. She cares deeply for her clients and fights hard to ensure that they receive the workers’ compensation benefits they deserve.
We invite you to learn more about Natalia Vander Laan and her unique approach to helping injured workers. Then contact the Vander Laan Law Firm today to schedule a free, confidential consultation to discuss your situation and how Natalia Vander Laan can help.
Categories: Workers' Compensation