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Should We Expect a Huge Number of Workers’ Compensation Covid-19 Cases Sooner or Later?

Burdine & Brown May 8, 2020

Here is a very real hypothetical situation that I would try to classify as a Georgia workers' compensation injury claim.

  • A registered nurse works at an ER of a local, Atlanta metro, hospital.

  • The hospital treats a huge number of COVID-19 cases.

  • The RN does not have access to proper hospital protective equipment including face masks, gloves, and PPE's.

  • The nurse contracts COVID-19.

  • The nurse self-quarantines but 10 days later is admitted to the hospital and is placed on a respirator.

  • The nurse is 45 years old. She has no lung, heart, or diabetes co-morbid medical issues. She was in excellent health.

  • The nurse tragically dies, leaving a husband and two minor children, 10 and 12 years old.

  • The husband had not worked in six months and was totally dependent on his nurse/wife's income.

QUESTION: Is the father and/or the children entitled to workers' compensation benefits for her death as dependents?

I believe there is a good case for the nurse's death to be classified as a job injury resulting in death and dependency. One of the many questions is whether the disability/death resulted from a sudden occurrence rather than a gradual onset over years of exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

Most of the legal cases decided by the Court of Appeals in Georgia seem to agree that a prolonged exposure over the years, would be classified as an occupational disease. But the suddenness of the disability/death would prevent this from being classified as an occupational disease. Her case would be classified as an injury case.