Employee Death Claims for Coronavirus/Covid-19
April 7, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted millions of Americans, including many Texans. Many have lost wages and work. The number of citizens infected by the Coronavirus continues to grow every day. Sadly, some people never recover and pass away as a result of infection. Spouses and minor children are left without a parent and provider. Victims of the Coronavirus who were infected at work may have workers’ compensation claims against their employer. If an employer is covered by Texas workers’ compensation insurance, the employee’s surviving family members may be able to bring a workers’ compensation claim against the employer. Survivors should contact a workers’ compensation lawyer for assistance bringing a claim if they have any questions. If the employer is a nonsubscriber (does not carry workers’ compensation insurance), the employee’s survivors may have a wrongful death lawsuit against the employer. Family members should contact a wrongful death attorney if they believe they may have a claim.
Walmart is a defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of an employee who passed away at the end of March. The employee was 51 years old. The lawsuit alleges that Walmart did not warn the decedent that other individuals in the store were experiencing coronavirus symptoms. The lawsuit also claims that Walmart failed to provide protective masks and gloves to employees.
Can I File a Workers’ Compensation Claim if the Coronavirus Infects Me?
In Texas, employees may file workers’ compensation claims if they are injured while at work or have a work-related disease or illness. 80% of the Texas workforce is covered by the workers’ compensation system. Most large employers have workers’ compensation insurance. Texas state employees by law are provided with workers’ compensation insurance. Federal employees are covered under the U.S. Department of labor. The employee does not have to prove that the employer was negligent or did anything wrong to receive compensation under a workers’ compensation claim.
If you are a medical provider, COVID-19 may be considered a work-related disease or illness. If you are not a doctor, nurse or medical professional, it is unlikely that the coronavirus would be considered a work-related disease or illness. You would need to prove that you contracted COVID-19 while at work in order to be covered. This may be difficult to prove, but not impossible. If a fellow employee was diagnosed before you or around the same time, that would provide evidence that you were infected at work with the virus.
What Benefits Might I Receive Under Workers’ Compensation for the Death of a Family Member?
If an employee dies as a result of an illness that he or she received at work, the spouse, minor children and children under the age of twenty-five enrolled in college will receive a portion of the lost family income and burial benefits to pay some of the funeral expenses. Death benefits are 75% of the deceased employee’s average weekly wage. There are maximum and minimum benefit limits. Medical treatment for the illness may also be covered if the doctor was approved by the Commission.
What if My Employer Does Not Have Workers’ Compensation?
In Texas, about forty percent of companies do not subscribe to workers’ compensation insurance. These nonsubscribers may be sued by their employees if the employee is injured as a result of the employer’s negligence. The employee must prove that he was infected with the coronavirus at work and that the employer’s negligence caused the employee to get sick. For example, the employee might have a claim if the employer did not allow employees to wear personal protective equipment at work like N95 masks and gloves. If employees became ill, were not tested and infected other employees, there might be a valid claim against the employer. For instance, Walmart, Target, McDonalds and other employers did not provide masks to employees despite their requests until recently. McDonalds discouraged employees from wearing masks or gloves on the job according to an anonymous employee.
Some of the largest employers that are nonsubscribers in Texas are grocery stores and home improvement stores. A list of some of the largest nonsubscriber employers in Texas are listed below. If you have been injured on the job while working for one of the nonsubscriber employers listed below, call the O’Hara Law Firm.
La Michoacana Meat Market
The family members who bring a COVID-19 wrongful death claim may receive compensation for the lost earning capacity of the decedent, funeral expenses, mental anguish, loss of inheritance, loss of companionship, loss of comfort, loss of society, and loss of love. If you have a family member that was infected with the coronavirus at work, contact The O’Hara Law Firm for a free consultation. Patrick O’Hara is a wrongful death attorney that handles cases in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and other surrounding areas. Mr. O'Hara has experience representing individuals who have been seriously injured by the neglience of large businesses like Walmart, HEB, Exxon, Kohls and others. The O’Hara Law Firm represents clients on a contingency fee basis. Call us at 832-956-1138.