Claims for exposure to workplace diseases
The North Carolina workers’ compensation laws allow, in certain circumstances, compensation for transmitted diseases and fatalities.
While many if not most people think of work comp as relating to a slip-and-fall or some other traumatic physical injury, there are some professions where there are unique susceptibilities to transmittable diseases.
Given the news about the COVID-19 virus, it’s reasonable to ask, “If I catch the flu or get a disease while at work, am I covered under the workmans compensation laws?”
The answer, as is the case for many complicated legal issues, is, “It depends.”
Workplace Injuries and Wrongful Death claims
We are all, to some extent, subject to transmittable diseases in our everyday lives.
Whether it is going to the grocery store, a high school sporting event, or sitting next to someone in church, we all have contact with the general public and therefore the potential to get sick.
Some employees in the workplace, and specific professions, are in contact with and literally touched by the public on a daily basis.
And while certain professions are likely more inherently subject to exposure to colds, the flu bug, and even the Coronavirus, that does not necessarily mean they are covered or otherwise accepted as valid claims under the Work Comp laws in North Carolina.
For example, school teachers, bus drivers, and restaurant workers are liked exposed daily to some pretty nasty bugs. They work with the general public as part of their jobs.
Doctors, nurses, emergency medical personnel, and even possibly law enforcement officers are some of the most “at-risk” for exposure to a wide range of very serious viruses, infections, and transmittable diseases.
Their exposure to virulent diseases may be determined, as a matter of law, substantially greater than that of an ordinary citizen or the risk associated with being a part of the general public.
Given the unique nature of their respective professions, there may be the possibility of coverage under the NC work comp laws.
Certain healthcare professionals’ daily jobs and job responsibilities necessitate, if not mandate, close contact with a statistically higher population of people who are often very sick and very contagious.
People who work as First Responders and in emergency rooms have little to no choice but to be exposed, on a minute-to-minute basis, to diseases.
Even with prophylactic safety protocols, the incidence of transmission (frequency, duration, and extent) is statistically more likely for surgeons, doctors, and nurses.
Medical service providers are also substantially more likely to catch transmittable diseases and suffer from their ailments, even with significant safety precautions.
Because of that, that group of the workforce may have additional rights under the NC Workmens Compensation Laws.
What are “Occupational Diseases” in North Carolina
Article 1 of the Workers’ Compensation Act in NC defines “diseases and conditions” that may be compensable.
They include things like:
- Lead Poisoning
- Mercury Poisoning
- Acid Poisoning
- Arsenic Poisoning
- Zinc Poisoning
- Epitheliomatous Cancers
- Asbestosis (Mesothelioma)
- Undulant Fever
- Infection with Smallpox
Relative to the “Corona Virus,” COVID-19, and SARA-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome), the following language may prove important:
Any disease. . .which is proven to be due to. . .peculiar to a particular trade, occupation or employment – NC Work Comp Laws
At the same time, reasonable minds may differ as to the meaning of the additional language, “. . .[B]ut excluding all ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is equally exposed outside of the employment.”
The determinative factor may come down to answering questions such as:
- Are doctors and nurses equally exposed to the Coronavirus?
- Are medical professionals deemed “equally exposed” when they are in the general public?
- Are EMT’s (emergency medical technicians), police officers, and ambulance drivers exposed more than the general public as part of or due to their employment?
- When was the disease transmitted?
- How was the Coronavirus transmitted?
- Is there are a discernable event where transmission of the virus may be proven?
- Did the medical professional catch the disease at home? At a movie? At Disney World?
NC DHHS: Communicable Diseases Protocols for Healthcare Providers
The North Carolina Department of Public Health / Epidemiology is a good source of information regarding the Guides, Disease Manuals, Forms, and Support Services:
- N.C. Communicable Disease Manual
- Communicable Disease Laws in North Carolina
- North Carolina Administrative Code – Protocols for Disease Control
- What does “In the Course of Employment” mean?
- Protect your legal rights after a workplace injury
- What you need to know about Workmens Compensation in NC
North Carolina Workers Compensation Lawyers
Our law firm is dedicated to hard work, compassionate, and focused legal representation to employees who have been injured at the workplace.
Kevin Jones is a Board Certified Specialist in Workers’ Compensation in North Carolina with substantial experience handling complex Work Comp matters, including Occupational Diseases and work-related injuries.
Email Kevin Jones now to schedule a meeting: Kevin@DodgeJones.com
We do not charge consultation fees.
Everything you tell an attorney and/or legal support staff at our eastern North Carolina law firm is strictly confidential and is otherwise protected by the attorney-client privilege.
Given the unique nature of such legal matters, it may be appropriate to conduct initial interviews via telephone or secure video conferencing.
Call Kevin Jones now: 877-622-6671