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Coronavirus – The Workers Compensation Perspective

Coronavirus – The Workers Compensation Perspective

I have been contacted by multiple employers and insurance carriers over the past week, asking how a potential coronavirus outbreak would be handled from a workers compensation perspective in Missouri and Illinois.

Let me first say this: the medical evidence related to the coronavirus is very clear – –  there is not currently any widespread outbreak in the United States, most people who are infected make a full recovery, it primarily affects individuals over the age of 60, but there is about a 2% fatality rate.

From a workers compensation perspective, I see 2 categories of employees – – those who have tested positive and those who have not tested positive but may be quarantined or working from home.


In both Missouri and Illinois, the standard for compensability would be similar – – the employment must place the claimant at a greater risk to contract the disease than the claimant would otherwise be exposed as a member of the general public.  This can be best explained with the following example:

1.   If the coronavirus breaks out generally in a community, and a person at Acme company happens to get it, claimant would have to prove that the workplace placed him/her at a greater risk of contracting the virus.  If the virus is in the general community, this would be difficult to prove.

2.   If the coronavirus is not in a given community to any significant degree, but multiple people at Acme company contract the virus, then the claimant MAY be able to show that the employment placed the claimant at a greater risk to contract the virus.  In this scenario, the condition COULD be compensable depending on the specific evidence.


If a claimant can meet the “greater risk” threshold, then the Employer/Insurer would be liable for:

  • Medical benefits
  • TTD for time missed from work
  • No PPD if, like the vast majority of coronavirus cases, the claimant eventually makes a full recovery
  • Death benefits if the worst-case scenario happens (currently around a 2% fatality rate)


If workers are sent home because of possible exposure, there would be no entitlement to workers compensation benefits unless they are actually infected.  Workers who are sent home and who do not test positive for anything have no entitlement to workers compensation benefits because they have not been injured.

This is similar to needle-stick cases where claimants are afraid that they might develop AIDS.  If nothing develops, there is no entitlement to benefits.

If a quarantined worker eventually does test positive, the analysis in the section above would apply.

Please understand that I have left out a lot of analysis for the sake of brevity (i.e. psych claims).  If you want to discuss this in greater detail, just let me know.

  • Brad
Missouri and Illinois Workers Compensation Defense Attorneys