Workers’ Compensation and COVID-19

Will workers compensation benefits for Coronavirus (COVID 19) be covered in North Carolina?  The very debate is taking place amongst workers compensation attorneys and the answer is complicated.   The courts can go either way once the issue is litigated. North Carolina does allow compensation for an occupational disease which is defined as diseases caused by conditions that are characteristic with a particular trade or occupation, but excluding ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is equally exposed outside of the employment.  So what does that mean in plain english?  

In order to win an occupational disease claim, an employee would need to show that their employment places them at increased risk of contracting the condition over members of the general public not equally exposed.  I would argue that healthcare workers, first responders and front-line workers are at an increased risk by the nature of frequent contact with sick people already carrying Coronavirus (COVID 19).  

In order to meet the second prong for winning an occupational disease claim; the employee must show the employment significantly contributed to the development of the condition.  Medical or expert testimony is generally required in order to prove increased risk. An expert would need to testify that the exposure was a significant contributing factor. The casual link will be the biggest hurdle for employees to overcome.

At the end of the day in my opinion this can and should be fixed by the NC legislature who can create a carve out for healthcare workers, first responders and front-line workers.  Public policy demands that these brave men and women should be protected.