amNY: Frontline workers in NYC face uphill battle for workers comp after contracting COVID-19

Like her late colleague, paramedic Paul Cary, Julie has transported numerous coronavirus patients for the private Ambulanz company to Jamaica Hospital throughout the pandemic.

Cary died of the illness, and Julie wound up contracting COVID-19 as well; fortunately, she survived a two-week ordeal. But her employer said that she didn’t qualify for workers compensation, even though she was repeatedly exposed to very ill COVID-19 patients.

Workers on the front-lines of COVID-19 have been getting sick from those in their care — and some employers are discouraging them from seeking workers comp benefits that would come from insurance companies. Many of these insurers have stashed billions in profits from the private workers comp system over the years.

Attorneys representing these essential workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis say a strong case can be made for workers who contract the contagion on while doing their jobs.

William Crossett, a Syracuse-based attorney and co-chair of the New York Workers Comp Alliance, told amNewYork Metro there is a “great deal of law showing that workers can make a workers comp claim if they get sick while working.”

“This is long established case law,” Crossett said of workers getting sick on jobs. “The workers comp law is unique in a couple ways set up for workers to get benefits — typically it’s a traumatic event or accident case, but then there is bakers asthma, occupation diseases like asbestosis (an related to long-term exposure to asbestos) — these are set up as accidents.”

Workers Compensation allows an employee to recover lost wages and get full payment of medical claims, unlike going to insurance that costs an injured worker costly co-pays that they can ill afford, especially if the injury cause a disability.

Disability payments, on the other hand, can take a year or more to receive that “employees can ill afford to wait that long,” Crossett said.

After an illness or injury, the injured worker needs to see a doctor, even using telemedicine and describe details to the doctor. The worker then tells the doctor the relationship between his work and how he may have contracted the virus. The doctor would advise that person to quarantine or not work.

Many people don’t know they qualify for workers comp.

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