Ebola Could Be Considered “Occupational Hazard” and Covered by Workers Comp for Some Jobs
Thousands of people in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea have died after contracting Ebola in one of the worst outbreaks of this incredibly contagious disease seen so far. Other countries, including Nigeria, Senegal, Spain, and US also have a small number of cases, showing just how contagious this fluid-borne illness can be.
As a second nurse in the United States has contracted Ebola from working with an Ebola patient, debate surges regarding safety precautions and hospital preparedness in the US. California has entered contract negotiations with their nurses’ union, and Ebola has come up as a bargaining chip for better protection of health care workers, which means the state must give more money to hospitals for training and outfitting against the disease.
Ebola could also come up in workers comp for health care workers who contract the illness.
In order for a workers comp claim involving Ebola to be considered legitimate, the disease must 1) have been contracted in the scope of employment, and 2) must have been contracted in conditions “peculiar to” the employee’s job. Nurses, doctors, emergency responders, CDC officials, and other types of health care workers could be exposed to Ebola in coming months, which means that they could legitimately file a workers comp claim to cover the costs of their treatment.
In order to contract Ebola, a person must come into unprotected contact with a patient’s bodily fluids, such as blood, vomit, or mucous. This is an unlikely situation for many United States citizens, but because two nurses treating an Ebola patient have contracted the disease within a month of treating the US’s first Ebola patient, it could be considered an occupational hazard.
This means that insurance companies, including those covering workers comp, have discussed the potential financial risks of Ebola.
“Even in the unlikely event that the Ebola virus spreads to infect tens of thousands of adults in the United States, the financial impact will likely be quite manageable,” an analysis from the Insurance Information Institute said Monday, October 13th.
“As with life insurance coverage, reinsurance will help mitigate the financial effect of a surge in claims, which are likely to be very costly in the event of actual work-related infections,” the report said.
Health insurers, life insurers, and workers comp insurers all agreed that a pandemic would be financially devastating for insurance companies. However, health officials and insurance company spokespeople agree that a pandemic is highly unlikely, and other occupational hazards, such as carpal tunnel, construction accident injuries and deaths, and exposure-related cancers are more likely to lead to workers comp claims.
The Strom Law Firm Can Help with Workers Comp Claims in South Carolina
The workers comp lawyers at The Strom Law Firm, LLC proudly seek justice on behalf of employees injured or killed on the job who work for private companies, as well as employees working for local county, city, and state government. We are licensed to practice throughout South Carolina, as well as Georgia and New York. If you are confused about worker’s comp laws, or have had your worker’s comp claim denied, contact us. We offer free consultations to discuss the facts of your case.803.252.4800.