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Cochran Firm Blog, Philadelphia

Employer Liability and The Coronavirus

We have all been affected financially and emotionally these past few months by the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, many have also been affected physically or have had loved ones  fallen ill due to COVID-19. We are ready to get back to work and resume a somewhat  normal routine, understandably so after 2+ months of isolation. However, many states are beginning to reopen, and eager business owners and working Americans acting prematurely can cause a multitude of health  problems for all parties involved. 

With mandatory lockdowns coming to an end, liability claims against employers are expected to rise as the risk of contracting the virus is still high. Over the next couple of weeks and until the coronavirus is a thing of the past, it’s important to stay informed and up to date on the guidelines set by the CDC and local healthcare governments. If you are an employer, you should be aware of your rights and protections at the workplace. And as a business owner, you will need to make sure you are doing everything in your power to ensure the safety of your employees and patrons. 

Liability Claims vs. Workers’ Compensation

In the event of an unsafe work environment leading to injury or  illness, a liability claim is bound to surface. Now, what is a liability claim exactly and how do they work? It’s important to note that a liability claim is separate from workers’ compensation.

Workers’ compensation is a state-mandated program that provides coverage for those injured while working. It is considered a no-fault insurance because the employee does not have to prove that the employer was negligent, they just have to prove that they were injured while carrying out a work related task. However, not all claims are straightforward; sometimes a worker compensation claim denied can present significant challenges for the injured party. Workers’ compensation most commonly covers medical expenses and lost wages, but it does not account for pain and suffering. 

If an injured or ill  worker feels that the workers’ compensation was not sufficient enough in covering costs, they may decide to sue and file a liability claim. The main difference between the two is that in order to file a liability claim, the injured party must prove the employer was negligent. In other words, the actions or lack of action taken by an employer caused their condition. It’s essential to understand the requirements for worker compensation as a baseline for comparison, since workers’ compensation is typically a no-fault system meant to cover work-related injuries and illnesses without needing to prove employer negligence. The are four elements that comprise proving negligence:

  1. Duty – the injured party was in fact an employee and the employer had a duty to protect them from harm
  2. Breach of Duty – the actions or lack of action by the employer caused a breach of duty
  3. Causation – the injuries or illness  sustained were a direct result of the breach of duty
  4. Damages – the injuries or illness resulted from the breach of duty must be calculable 

If you believe you deserve compensation beyond workers’ compensation, we recommend you contact an experienced attorney to help explain and develop an action plan for your case.

Know Your Rights as An Employee

Knowing your rights as an employee is now more important than ever. Your employer has a duty to maintain a safe work environment for you and your customers. They are required to provide proper training, provide safety equipment, and are tasked with the upkeep of any machinery or equipment. 

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, this duty to maintain a safe work environment has evolved even moreso. For essential workers and those beginning to return to work, your employer should be following all CDC and local healthcare government guidelines. This includes providing personal protective equipment for employees and implementing specific guidelines for the business. Additionally, an employer is not allowed to retaliate against any worker who raises concerns about the health and safety of an environment. 

If you fall ill in the upcoming weeks with  COVID-19 due to insufficient protection provided by your employer, your first priority should be to seek medical help. Go see a doctor and get copies of your medical records. If you test positive, alert your employer and continue to take the necessary medical steps according to your physician. 

From there, you may want to speak with an attorney and file a liability claim. You may also need to file a complaint with OSHA. For any additional information visit the Occupational Safety and Health Administration website for workers’ rights and contact an experienced attorney. 

Protecting Your Employees

As previously stated, business owners have a duty to protect their employees from harm, which includes physical injuries as well as illness. This falls under basic liability and reasonable care laws, meaning the government does not need to pass specific legislation in regards to the coronavirus outbreak for you to potentially be held liable. 

As businesses begin to reopen, it is crucial that you take every precaution to protect yourself, your employees, and your customers. This may look like required personal protective equipment, limited hours, limited occupancy, and additional sanitation measures. Keep in mind that by implementing additional sanitation measures, you are also responsible for protecting workers from exposure to hazardous chemicals often found in cleaning and disinfectant solutions. For more information on business standards during the reopening phases, refer to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines and your local healthcare government agencies. 

Contact Us Today

During this time, The Cochran Firm Philadelphia is taking their own precautionary steps for COVID-19, but do not fear – we are still here for you. The attorneys at our Philadelphia office have secured numerous multimillion dollar awards for victims of serious injury and many have even been recognized as Super Lawyers for their personal injury successes. When you are the victim of serious injury  or illness, you deserve someone on your side who is both intimately familiar with state and federal laws, and fully devoted to helping you get maximum compensation. Call us today to schedule a FREE case evaluation at 1-800-THE-FIRM.