In a recent blog post, we discussed how ordinary employees infected with the coronavirus on the job could recover workers’ compensation. If they are unable to prove that they got infected on the job, though, they might not be out of luck. Because of the trade-off at the heart Missouri’s workers’ compensation system, employees may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against their employer for negligently exposing them to covid-19.
Workers’ Compensation: Recovery Without the Lawsuit
The big idea behind workers’ compensation systems is to provide a source of financial compensation for employees who get hurt on the job, without making them go through the long and drawn-out process and awkward process of suing their boss in court. Employees spend huge portions of their day on the job. All that time makes workplace injuries foreseeable. Expediting the financial compensation that injured workers need – and doing it in a low-conflict way that will not stain their future relationship with their employer – is the goal of workers’ compensation.
An Exclusive Remedy for Covered Injuries
Workplace injuries that fall under the protection of Missouri’s workers’ compensation laws have to go through the workers’ compensation system. That is a part of the trade-off that is workers’ compensation: This form of compensation is the hurt worker’s exclusive remedy.
But what about injuries that are not covered by the law?
The Missouri Supreme Court has said that, when an employee is hurt but the incident does not fall within the definition of “accident” or “injury” provided by Missouri Statute 287.020, then the worker is not confined to workers’ compensation law. Instead, they are free to seek alternative remedies, as well, including a personal injury case.
What Would a Coronavirus Personal Injury Claim Look Like?
All personal injury claims revolve around 4 elements:
- The defendant had a legal duty to keep the victim safe,
- The defendant failed to uphold that duty,
- That failure caused the victim’s injuries, and
- The victim was, in fact, hurt.
Personal injury lawsuits by employees who got infected with the coronavirus on the job are still novel claims. However, they would likely focus on the steps that the employer was legally required to take to protect its workers to establish their legal duty, then would look at what the employer actually did to prove that they failed to uphold that duty.
Proving that the employer’s disregard for coronavirus protocols was the cause of the victim’s infection may still be difficult, as the employer will claim that the worker got the virus from somewhere else.
However, the mere threat of facing a personal injury claim might incentivize employers to approve workers’ compensation payouts for employees who got sick with the coronavirus. The verdicts for a personal injury claim would include damages for things like pain and suffering. This would make them much higher than the award that a sick worker stands to receive from filing for workers’ compensation.
Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph
The personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at the Smith Law Office strive to legally represent employees who have gotten infected with the coronavirus on the job and want to recover the compensation that they need and deserve. Contact us online or call our law office at (816) 875-9373.