This may be a very tough case for many Missourians. Generally, a regular disease that the general public is exposed to is not covered under the occupational disease category of the Missouri Work Comp statues. This includes influenza, colds and MRSA – even if the worker is a healthcare worker. These diseases can be contracted just about anywhere and not most likely at the worker’s place of employment.
However, if an injured Missouri worker catches a more serious disease, one that could more easily be identified as coming from their place of employment and not other sources, then they might be eligible for workers’ compensation under the occupational disease category of Missouri Work Comp. It is likely that Missouri Workers’ compensation cases involving coronavirus will only have a possibility of being compensable if the worker is in the healthcare field and can document that they have been specifically exposed to the virus.
Section 287.067 of the Missouri Workers’ Compensation Act defines “occupational diseases” as “an identifiable disease arising with or without human fault out of and in the course of the employment. Ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is exposed outside of the employment shall not be compensable, except where the diseases follow as an incident of an occupational disease.”
This section of the Missouri Work Comp code also states that “The disease need not to have been foreseen or expected but after its contraction it must appear to have had its origin in a risk connected with the employment and to have flowed from that source as a rational consequence.”
Subsection 7 of Section 287.067 goes on to state: “Any employee who is exposed to and contracts any contagious or communicable disease arising out of and in the course of his or her employment shall be eligible for benefits under this chapter as an occupational disease.”
The occupational disease portions of the Missouri Workers Compensation laws could certainly include coronavirus exposure.
One of the primary issues will be: “whether the job duties increased the employee’s risk of contracting the disease?” With that in mind, people in the healthcare field could make probably the best argument that their particular job duties increased their exposure to, and subsequent development of coronavirus is a compensable work-related occupational disease if they are in a situation where they have been actively treating patients with the diagnosis.
On the other hand, if someone works at a construction site or any other type of job where they may be around a lot of people and therefore have increased exposure to contracting the coronavirus, these type cases may much more difficult to be shown as covered by Missouri work comp because exposure for those types of employees arguably would be considered an “ordinary disease of life to which the general public is exposed.” The more the virus spreads, the harder it will be to make a winning argument by a Missouri Work comp lawyer for non-healthcare workers.
As with any case, employers and their insurers could conceivably be responsible for medical bills, TTD and PPD. For most successful Missouri Work Comp cases, permanent partial disability may be difficult for your Missouri work comp attorney to prove and there is a real possibly of practically no PPD. The medical bills and time off of work will likely be the largest part of benefits a sick health care worker can be expected to receive.
Hopefully everyone can stay safe during this incredibly difficult and trying time.