My name is Attorney Thomas Durkin, and I handle worker’s compensation cases, personal injury, and social security disability/SSI cases in Wisconsin. I get asked the question if COVID-19 can be considered a worker’s compensation injury for which benefits are payable in Wisconsin. The short answer is yes, but it depends upon many factors. Many viruses, including the COVID-19 virus and infections, can be covered under Wisconsin’s worker’s compensation law.
The criteria for establishing COVID-19 as a work-related condition is that the employee must show that the COVID-19 injury or illness happened while performing work activities and that contracting COVID-19 arose out of the employee’s employment.
The employee’s practitioner or doctor must state to a reasonable degree of medical probability that the employee actually contracted COVID-19 and that it was contracted while in the course and scope of employment as opposed to contracting COVID-19 while not working. This can be done by the doctor on a WKC-16-B Report called “Practitioner’s Report on Accident or Industrial Disease in Lieu of Testimony”. Mere exposure to someone that has COVID-19 without contracting the disease is not a work-related injury that is compensable under Wisconsin worker’s compensation law.
The next question is what steps should an employee take if they believe they have contracted COVID-19 while working. An employee should document as much as possible all contact with other people that could have led to the infection, including specific work dates, times, locations and to potential sources of exposure at the workplace. Evidence that COVID-19 was not caused by any other likely source may also be important. It is also important to document what the employer did or did not do and whether the employer had been put on notice that other employees contracted COVID-19. Did the employer take steps to ensure the safety of the employees, such as taking social distancing measures, hand washing, hand sanitizing, mask-wearing, and all other safety precautions that were or were not taken by the employer. Notice to the employer and the failure of the employer to take adequate and appropriate safety measures can be critically important in a COVID-19 claim.
If an employee has contracted COVID-19 at work or any other worker’s compensation injury as a result of work activities and have a doctor tying it up to the employee’s work exposure, then the employee may be entitled to have medical expenses paid, loss wages called temporary total disability, permanent disability called permanent partial disability, and potentially a loss of earning capacity claim depending upon the symptoms and lasting effects of COVID-19.
This article is not meant to give legal advice, but for informational purposes only. If you have specific questions regarding COVID-19 injuries at the workplace, any other work-related injury questions, or personal injury or social security disability/ssi, then please contact me at Cabranes, Durkin, and Longdin at (262) 638-0529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.