During normal times, the Arkansas workers comp law is pretty clear regarding claims for common illnesses. Workers in Arkansas are not allowed to collect benefits simply because they got sick at work. For example, if someone contracts pneumonia or the flu at work, they wouldn’t be entitled to workers compensation benefits. The general rule is that you can’t collect workers comp if you get a sickness that people in the general public is also contracting. The justification for this is that you were just as likely to get sick in your personal life as you were at work.
For healthcare workers and first responders, COVID-19 has presented a unique challenge. COVID-19 is definitely a disease or illness that the general public is at risk of getting. The virus is so contagious, that any exposure at all can lead to a full-blown illness. People working on the front lines, however, are at greater risk of catching the virus than other people.
And, since healthcare workers and first responders are deemed essential workers, they can’t sit home waiting for the crisis to pass. People who work in administrative positions, such as office workers, have the ability to work from home. Other workers, such as waiters and casino dealers, aren’t working at all. Their employers have, for the most part, shut down. Or, they’re only open on a limited basis. But nurses, doctors and EMTs have no choice. They cannot stay at home and collect unemployment. They have to go to work, pray there is enough personal protective equipment to go around, and do their jobs. For this reason, the Arkansas legislature has changed the law, temporarily, to try to provide some sort of protection to these workers. You should contact our Springdale workers compensation lawyers to find out more about this new legislation.
The Arkansas Legislature Has Passed an Emergency Order for Workers Compensation
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government in Arkansas has tried to find ways to protect people on the front lines. This pandemic has become similar to a war in the sense that certain workers are being put at extreme risk of contracting the illness. Doctors, nurses and firefighters have no choice but to go to work. They have to treat and deal with people who have tested positive for the virus. And, due to the nature of their work, there is a good chance that they, too, can contract the virus.
The same goes for police officers, EMT and other first responders can catch the virus while on the job. For this reason, the Arkansas Legislature has passed Order 20-19. The order was passed on April 14, 2020. It provides that healthcare workers and first responders can collect workers comp benefits if they contract the COVID-19 virus on the job. However, as promising as the order appears to be, it’s going to be very hard to prove these claims.
How Hard Will It Be to Prove a COVID Workers Comp Claim in Arkansas?
Personal injury lawyers in Arkansas are worried about whether this order will have as much bite as its bark. According to the order, qualified workers will be able to collect workers compensation benefits if they can prove that there is a causal connection between their job and the virus. This means they’ll have to demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence, that they got sick at work. This will be almost impossible for your Arkansas workers comp lawyer to prove.
Even if someone workers in a COVID-19 hot spot, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to prove that the claimant got hurt at work. Their employer can argue that it was just as likely that the worker caught the virus from someone at home or in the community. The other thing is that the order will expire on the day the State of Emergency ends. This means that healthcare workers and first responders have no idea how long they’ll have to file their claim. If they miss it by a day, they won’t even be able to file their claim.
The Order Doesn’t Apply to All At-Risk Workers in Arkansas
One of the criticisms of Arkansas Order 20-19 is that it only applies to a small segment of at-risk workers. Yes, it applies to healthcare workers and first responders. But it doesn’t apply to grocery store clerks, delivery people or other workers. Granted, nurses and doctors will be dealing with COVID patients all day long. However, not all first responders are exposed to a great number of COVID-positive patients. It seems a bit unfair that the law doesn’t apply to all workers.
If you’ve contracted the Coronavirus at work, you need to contact our office right away and schedule your free initial consultation.