First Responders Who Missed Work Due to the Novel Coronavirus Can File for Assistance Through February of 2021
While most of us in Kansas City have been confined to our homes during the coronavirus outbreak, first responders are reporting to work each day to serve us, putting their health at risk while doing so. To recognize this sacrifice, the Missouri Department of Labor (DOL) has changed certain workers’ compensation regulations in their favor. As of April 22, 2020, any first responder who has contracted the novel coronavirus and/or developed COVID-19 will be able to apply for workers’ compensation under the assumption their illness was caused by their job.
Though not passed until mid-April, this rule is retroactive. Any first responder who had to quarantine and/or miss work due to COVID-19 during the pandemic is covered. When Missouri lifts its state of emergency, or on February 1, 2021, the rule will expire. Though first responders cannot file until the rule goes into effect on April 22nd, anyone affected before that date will be eligible for workers’ compensation.
If you had to quarantine after suspected exposure to the novel coronavirus and/or missed work because of a COVID-19 infection, reach out to Klenofsky & Steward, LLC for your free consultation.
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Who Can Get Workers’ Compensation for COVID-19?
Missouri’s new rule applies to first responders: that is, law enforcement, firefighters, and EMTs. It does not currently apply to workers in any other industry. For those who are covered, your claims will be simpler because COVID-19 will automatically be considered an “occupational illness.” Without it, you would have to prove you were exposed to the novel coronavirus through your workplace.
To take advantage of this benefit, you do need to report your injury within a 30-day time period of learning about the exposure/illness. Workers’ compensation will not automatically kick in if you miss work because you are ill. Our team can help you organize everything needed to file a claim and follow up with your employer and the Division of Workers’ Compensation as necessary.
Do I Have Any Options If I’m Not a First Responder?
You may still be able to apply for workers’ compensation if you were diagnosed with COVID-19 after being exposed at work. However, as part of your claim, you will have to offer solid proof you contracted the virus at work. There is no doubt workers’ compensation insurers will fight these claims due to the vast amount they might end up paying otherwise. Therefore, pursuing a claim like this without strong evidence will be very difficult.
What Will Workers’ Compensation Cover?
If you miss work due to:
- employer-enforced quarantine due to suspected on-the-job exposure to the novel coronavirus or
- a case of COVID-19,
you may be eligible to receive compensation for lost wages and any necessary medical treatment. In the unlikely event of COVID-19 causing permanent disability that disrupts a patient’s career, workers’ compensation would be responsible for permanent disability payments as well. Should a patient contract a fatal case of COVID-19, their dependents would be eligible for survivor benefits.
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Because this order will be applied retroactively, and because medical care and testing are currently being reserved for the most severe cases, workers’ compensation claims may look different than usual. Typically, your employer can choose a doctor to evaluate you and guide your course of treatment. With the state of our medical system right now, that simply may not be possible for them to do. This may raise unique challenges in each case—but our attorney is ready to meet them with you.
There is no doubt serving on the front lines of a pandemic is a dangerous job. Dozens of first responders have already been infected and many more forced to quarantine after potential exposure. Even for those who do not have to face the high costs of treatment, missing two weeks of wages is upsetting given the number of people who have lost their jobs during this crisis. We are here to help first responders receive fair compensation if they become ill in the line of service. You deserve the best our state has to offer, and we’ll help you in any way you can.
If you are a firefighter, EMT, or law enforcement officer who contracted COVID-19, reach out to us at (816) 865-5700 to learn more about your workers’ compensation rights, free. Our team thanks you for your service.