Erie Essential Employee Work Injury Lawyers

Erie Essential Employee Work Injury Lawyers

Since the beginning of March, the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, has spread like wildfire across the United States. While the disease first showed up on the west coast, and then New York City, it was not long before Pennsylvania saw its first case. Since then, Governor Wolf has taken a series of steps to help combat the rapid spread of the virus, including issuing a series of executive orders closing schools, requiring residents stay at home and shutting down large portions of the state’s economy.

At Melaragno, Placidi & Parini, we represent Pennsylvania essential employees who have contracted COVID-19 to help them recover compensation. A COVID-19 diagnosis almost certainly will result in significant medical bills, missed work, and can even result in life-long injury or death. We want to help you and your family during this incredibly challenging time. While filing a claim for compensation may not be at the front of your mind as you recover from your illness, we encourage you to reach out as soon as possible to discuss your options.

COVID-19 Statistics

The United States has the most COVID-19 cases in the world:

  • 1,049,431 cases
  • 60,640 deaths
  • 6,043,315 COVID-19 tests administered

With over 35,000 cases of COVID-19, Pennsylvania has the fifth most cases in the United States.

  • 45,016 cases
  • 2,195 deaths
  • 209,088 COVID-19 tests administered

Pennsylvania COVID-19 cases by age:

  • 0 to 4: less than one percent of the total cases
  • 5 to 12: less than one percent of the total cases
  • 13 to 18: one percent of the total cases
  • 19 to 24: six percent of the total cases
  • 25 to 49: 38 percent of the total cases
  • 50 to 64: 27 percent of the total cases
  • 64 and older: 26 percent of the total cases

Pennsylvania counties with the most cases of COVID-19:

  • Philadelphia County – 11,885 cases
  • Bucks County – 2,733 cases
  • Montgomery County – 4,177 cases
  • Lehigh County – 2,719 cases
  • Berks County – 2,637 cases
  • Delaware County – 3,619 cases
  • Luzerne County – 2,111 cases
  • Northampton County – 2,008 cases

Philadelphia counties with the most COVID-19 deaths:

  • Bucks County – 185 deaths
  • Delaware County – 224
  • Montgomery County – 329 deaths
  • Philadelphia County – 424 deaths

Across the United States, there are between 49 to 62 million essential workers, representing between 34 to 43 percent of the total workforce.

Essential workers spend, on average, 55 percent of their time in close proximity with others.

Many essential workers earn less than the national average of $18.58 per hour.

12 percent of essential workers do not have health insurance

Information on COVID-19

COVID-19 is a very contagious infectious disease that is primarily spread through the air. According to health experts, the virus causing the disease is most often spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. This releases small droplets into the air that may contain the virus, and if another person breathes in these tiny droplets, that person may contract the virus. The virus can also spread when an uninfected person touches an infected surface and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.

Symptoms of COVID-19

The symptoms of the novel coronavirus are similar to those of the flu, and include a dry cough, low-grade fever and, in severe cases, difficulty breathing. Some have also reported a loss of smell. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should isolate themselves from others and reach out to a healthcare professional to be evaluated.

Who Is at Risk?

At the present time, experts believe that everyone is susceptible to COVID-19, and that no one is immune unless they have already had the virus. Anyone who ends up contracting COVID-19 is at risk of developing severe respiratory symptoms that can lead to death. However, many of those who are young and healthy will recover if they become infected. That said, even an otherwise healthy person may become ill and could need to be hospitalized before recovering.

The real concern is that the disease presents an increased risk of death for those over 60 years of age, those who are immunocompromised, as well as individuals with certain pre-existing health conditions, including:

  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • HIV
  • Asthma
  • Serious heart conditions
  • Chronic lung conditions
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes

Protecting Against the Spread of COVID-19

COVID-19 is spread through the air as well as through physical touch. Thus, the World Health Organization recommends that, to combat the spread of the disease, everyone:

  • Wash their hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with liquid soap and water;
  • Cover their nose and mouth with a disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing;
  • Avoid close contact (within six feet) of those who may have the virus;
  • Wear a mask when around other people; and
  • Stay at home and self-isolate if they are feeling unwell.

On April 1, 2020 Governor Wolf issued an executive order requiring most residents stay at home to reduce the rate at which COVID-19 spreads. However, the Governor’s executive order leaves room for many “life sustaining” businesses to continue operations. Employees who work for these life-sustaining businesses, depending on their employers, may be required to come into work.

Governor Wolf’s Response to COVID-19

Under the Governor’s most recent stay-at-home order, residents must remain inside their home unless they are leaving to conduct the following:

  • Tasks that are essential to maintain health and safety;
  • Obtaining necessary services;
  • Engaging in certain outdoor activity;
  • To perform work providing essential products and services at a life-sustaining business; and
  • To care for a loved one.

For some businesses, this executive order required they shut down operations. However, many Pennsylvania business that provide “life-sustaining business activities” are permitted to remain open during the pandemic. The state government has released a document describing in detail the positions that are considered to provide life-sustaining business activity, including:

  • Agriculture
  • Food manufacturing
  • Chemical manufacturing
  • Metal manufacturing
  • Many wholesalers
  • Grocery stores
  • Beer distributors
  • Air, truck, rail and water transportation
  • Postal service
  • Utilities
  • Broadcasters and reporters
  • Some financial institutions
  • Waste management
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Ambulatory health care services
  • Social assistance
  • Car mechanics
  • Religious institutions

Thus, while many Pennsylvania employees are required to stay home under the Governor’s orders, a significant number of Pennsylvania workers are considered essential. Depending on their employer, these employees may be required to go to work as normal, despite the dangers of being in public during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governor Wolf issued another executive order requiring business that remain open follow certain precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, including:

  • Providing masks for employees to wear at work, and requiring that employees wear the masks during their shift;
  • Staggering shifts to prevent groups of employees from gathering;
  • Providing enough space for employees to have breaks and meals while maintaining a social distance of 6 feet;
  • Limiting the number of employees in common areas;
  • Conducting meetings and trainings virtually, if possible;
  • Ensuring that the organization has enough staff so that all employees can safely perform their job;
  • Prohibiting non-essential visitors from entering the premises; and
  • Ensuring that non-English speaking employees understand the procedures that have been put into place.

The Governor’s order acknowledges the fact that some employees are going to be exposed and clarified what an employer should do in that situation. Employers who learn that an employee was exposed to COVID-19 must:

  • Close off and ventilate all areas visited by that individual;
  • Wait a minimum of 24 hours, or as long as practical, before starting to clean and disinfect the area;
  • Clean and disinfect all spaces, especially commonly used rooms and shared electronic equipment;
  • Identify and notify employees who were in close contact with that individual (within about 6 feet for about 10 minutes); and
  • Ensure that the business has a sufficient number of employees to perform these protocols effectively and immediately.

Those business that serve the public are subject to additional regulations, including:

  • Require all customers wear masks while on the property;
  • Conduct business by appointment only, or limit occupancy by half;
  • Change business hours to ensure there is enough time to effectively clean and disinfect the business;
  • Install shields or other barriers at cash registers, and make sure that registers are no less than six feet apart;
  • Encourage the use of online ordering;
  • Designated a specific time for high-risk individuals to visit the business;
  • Schedule handwashing breaks for all employees; and
  • Wipe down all carts and baskets.

These measures are all to protect the safety of employees and customers. And while many employers have taken their duties seriously, others have not. At Melaragno, Placidi & Parini, we help employees who have contracted COVID-19 obtain much needed and deserved compensation for what they have gone thought. Our experienced team of Pennsylvania work injury lawyers are experienced in handling both workers’ compensation and personal injury claims.

Compensation for Pennsylvania Employees Diagnosed with COVID-19

When an employee is injured in a Pennsylvania workplace accident, or they contract an occupational disease, there are typically two types of claims they can pursue. The first is a workers’ compensation claim. A Pennsylvania workers’ compensation claim is a way for an injured employee to quickly obtain limited benefits after a workplace injury or occupational illness. The workers’ compensation system is a no-fault system, meaning than an employee does not need to prove that their employer was responsible for their injury. However, the insurance companies that carry employers’ workers’ compensation policies will routinely contest claims. For example, an insurance company may dispute that an essential employee contracted COVID-19 while on the job and claim that they got the virus from another source. While a workers’ compensation claim allows an employee to obtain compensation without establishing fault, the downside to these claims is that they do not allow for the recovery of non-economic damages, such as compensation for pain and suffering.

The second type of claim that may be available to a Pennsylvania essential employee who contracts COVID-19 is a personal injury claim. For the most part, there are no limits on the type or amount of damages that can be awarded in a personal injury claim. However, to successfully bring in a personal injury claim, an injured worker must be able to establish that the named defendant was negligent, and that the defendant’s negligence resulted in the worker’s injuries.

The biggest hurdle in many workplace injury cases is overcoming the exclusive remedy provision of the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law. Typically, when an employee is injured on the job, their exclusive remedy against an employer is a workers’ compensation claim. Thus, absent an exception, an employee who is injured on the job can file for workers’ compensation but cannot pursue a personal injury case against their employer.

Of course, the exclusive-remedy provision does not preclude an injured employee from pursuing a personal injury case against a third party. Similarly, the sole remedy provision of the workers’ compensation act does not apply if the worker’s injury was the result of an employers’ willful or intentional actions.

Contact a Pennsylvania Work Injury Lawyer Today

If you or a loved one has been designated as an essential employee, and contracted COVID-19 while at work, contact the dedicated injury advocates at Melaragno, Placidi & Parini. At Melaragno, Placidi & Parini, we understand the difficulties that families face during the COVID-19 pandemic, because we too are dealing with the same issues. Our team of attorneys is committed to helping you and your family overcome these challenges in any way we can. We handle all types of Pennsylvania personal injury cases, workers’ compensation claims and unemployment claims. Our lawyers have been selected as Top 10 Attorney for Client Satisfaction by the American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys awarded to attorneys demonstrating exceptional and outstanding client service. We will take as long as it takes to help you determine if you have the right to file a lawsuit to compensate you for your injuries. Call us at (814) 459-5557. While our physical offices are closed to protect the safety of our staff, clients and society as a whole, we are working remotely to ensure uninterrupted representation to both new and established clients.

Testimonials

I would recommend them to anyone and have. 

John is a great attorney.  John and his staff promptly return calls and emails when you have questions and concerns not only when the process starts but all the way to completion.  John and his staff have been a godsend throughout. I would recommend them to anyone and have. 

- Virginia

I would recommend them to anyone and have. 

John is a great attorney.  John and his staff promptly return calls and emails when you have questions and concerns not only when the process starts but all the way to completion.  John and his staff have been a godsend throughout. I would recommend them to anyone and have. 

- Virginia

Attorney Parini impressed me as soon as I met him.

I knew right off the bat that this attorney was the person I wanted to represent me. His very intimidating posture, led me to believe he could handle anything that would come his way. The man is a winner.  

- J.C.

Gene was awesome!!!

He handled everything so I didn’t have to worry and could just focus on my recovery and get back to work. He was always available and quick to return my phone calls and emails with the answers I needed. My case was handled quickly and with no added stress to me or my family. I would recommend Matt to anyone in need of assistance after a motor vehicle accident.

- V.L.