In April, Missouri lawmakers passed a law allowing first responders to file for workers’ compensation for COVID-19 related illnesses.
First responders had to work during most of the pandemic shut downs with little to no PPE, as at the time, there was a nation-wide shortage. We covered the new Missouri law and its potential outcomes back in May.
Now, as we are 6 months into pandemic-related shutdowns, we have started to see workers’ compensation claims filed nationwide.
What does this mean for Missouri first responders’ claims and future expansion of the law?
Large Companies Sued for Wrongful Death and Workers’ Comp
Employers across the country are being sued for wrongful death by the families of workers who contend their loved ones contracted lethal cases of COVID-19 on the job.
Large employers like Walmart Inc., Safeway Inc., Tyson Foods Inc. and some health-care facilities have been sued for wrongful death or gross negligence since the Coronavirus pandemic began spreading across the U.S. back in March.
Employees’ loved ones argue the companies failed to protect workers from the deadly virus and should compensate their family members as a result. Workers who survived the virus are also suing to receive compensation for medical bills, future earnings and other damages.
However, employers have been responding saying that it’s impossible to know where these employees contracted the virus.
Most large employers have implemented employee daily screenings, mask requirements, increased sanitation and limiting numbers of employees and customers within a room.
Missouri First Responders Workers’ Compensation Claims Being Filed
We are now seeing the first wave of workers’ compensation and wrongful death claims being filed due to COVID-19 in Missouri.
A nurse in Kansas City contracted COVID-19 while working with a positive patient and died a month later. Two days before she came into contact with that patient, her employer Kansas City Medical Research Center took away PPE (personal protective equipment), making their employees more vulnerable to contracting the airborne virus.
Her family argues that their daughter’s death was preventable if the employer had followed CDC guidelines and provided PPE. Their case is still pending.
Claimed Success and Future Expansion
In Missouri, first responders are currently defined as law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMTs.
Many new lawsuits being filed nationwide wants to expand the definition during this time to include anyone forced to return to work within the first few months of the pandemic – including grocery store employees and others who had to interact with the public on a daily basis.
However, Missouri workers are more fortunate than those in states like Texas, who have yet to pass a law protecting their law enforcement officers.
Claims and lawsuits are still being filed and processed, so it is hard to know what the outcome will be. But it is important for every essential worker to know their rights if they believe they contracted Coronavirus on the job.
Contact the experienced attorneys at Marler Law Partners for a free consultation if you believe this applies to you.