Can workers’ compensation cover COVID-19 infections?

While the threat of COVID-19 has largely diminished in the past couple of years, the illness remains a constant problem that comes and goes. Experts have even warned that with fall and winter coming, the number of infection cases could rise again.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that for the week of September 02, 2023, there have been 18,871 hospital admissions for COVID-19 in the U.S. This is more than twice the number of weekly admissions recorded two months earlier on July 01, at 6,481.

One of the ways a person can get exposed to COVID-19 is through their work. Certain occupations, such as registered nurses, retail salespeople, repair workers and commercial drivers will find themselves in many situations where they must interact with multiple other people, so their risk of getting infected is high.

If COVID-19 is a real occupational risk, can workers’ compensation cover for their illnesses?

North Carolina insurers can cover for work-related infections

Fortunately for North Carolina workers, the state has rules that allow workers’ compensation coverage for COVID-19 cases contracted during work.

Workers can file one of two types of compensation claims for their COVID-19 illness: an occupational disease claim and an injury by accident claim.

Occupational disease claim

In an occupational disease claim, workers must prove that they contracted COVID-19 during their employment and that their occupation is at greater risk of contracting the disease than the general public. This might be the type of claim filed by workers whose jobs require them to interact with many potentially infected people, such as nursing assistants, personal care aides teachers, paramedics and dentists.

Injury by accident claim

For this claim, workers should prove that they contracted COVID-19 due to an “accident.” This “accident” can be any interruption of the workers’ normal job routine as long as it occurs during the course of their employment. If the injury occurs while the worker performs regular job duties, it’s not eligible for coverage under this claim.

Claims can still be denied

Although North Carolina has provisions that allow workers to file for compensation for COVID-19, there’s no guarantee that their employer would approve the claim. But just like any denied claim, a worker can contest the denial by requesting a hearing with the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Workers may want to obtain legal counsel because this hearing can be a complicated back-and-forth process.

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