The legal industry is considering Coronavirus and potential workers compensation claims, writes Attwood Marshall Lawyers Compensation Law Partner, Jeremy Roche.
In QLD, you can claim compensation for a disease contracted in the course of employment, whether at or away from the place of employment, if employment is a significant contributing factor to the disease. In NSW, you can claim compensation for a disease that is contracted by a worker in the course of employment, but only if the employment was the main contributing factor to the disease.
Generally speaking, establishing an entitlement to workers compensation with respect to a contracted disease can be difficult. The problem lies in proving that the disease was contracted in the course of employment as opposed to being contracted at home, the local community, or somewhere else – particularly if the disease is prevalent in the worker’s local area and/or the community generally.
Additionally, those who contract diseases often recover relatively quickly without permanent effects which means that the value of a workers’ compensation claim may not be worthwhile.
Workers may be entitled to workers compensation benefits in circumstances where they can demonstrate that they contracted Coronavirus whilst in the course of their employment where their employment significantly or materially contributed to the worker contracting the disease. For example:
- If a health worker was required to treat patients afflicted with Coronavirus and in doing so, contracted Coronavirus themselves, an entitlement to claim compensation may potentially exist.
- If a café worker contracts Coronavirus which she expects was contracted from a co-worker at work, an entitlement to claim compensation might not exist if she was also exposed to the same co-worker outside of work.
Importantly, it will often remain difficult to prove that the worker contracted Coronavirus at work in the course of work duties given its high infection rate and prevalence in the community generally.
Compensation under the workers’ compensation statutory benefit regimes, for example, the no-fault statutory benefit systems in QLD and NSW may be payable to Coronavirus-afflicted workers dependant on the facts of each individual case.
Compensation by way of a common law negligence claim may be made where a Coronavirus-afflicted worker can prove that their employer’s negligence caused them to contract Coronavirus and effects of same on the worker, in terms of medical costs, income loss, etc, makes a common law claim worthwhile.
Current information suggests that a worker inflicted with Coronavirus is unlikely to suffer from permanent or long-lasting symptoms and the quantum, or monetary value, of such claims are likely to be modest – particularly where a worker recovers over a relatively short period.
Naturally, there will be exceptions – particularly in the case of death and/or permanent symptoms – where a common law negligence claim may potentially be worthwhile.