Florida is one of the worst-hit states during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Nearly 3.5 million cases have been confirmed in the state, as well as 50,000 deaths. First responders have felt endangered by the high virus counts, especially paramedics who often have to take COVID-19 patients to the hospital via ambulance.
In 2020, the Division of Risk Management announced that first responders and other public workers could get workers’ compensation if they were exposed to the virus while working. However, no additional steps were taken to ensure that COVID workers’ comp cases from first responders would be taken seriously or prioritized. An estimated 50% of all COVID-19 claims filed in Florida faced first-round denials because the insurance company argues – often successfully – that the claimant could have just as likely caught the coronavirus while off-the-clock.
To try to get first responders, like paramedics, police officers, and firefighters, the workers’ comp benefits they deserve, some Florida lawmakers have recently introduced House Bill 53. This bill would add a “rebuttal presumption” clause to the law, which essentially states that it can be presumed that a first responder diagnosed with COVID caught the virus because of their work. The insurance company would then have an opportunity to challenge that conclusion by proving the claimant got sick from an exposure that happened elsewhere. One caveat is that the claimant’s COVID diagnosis must have resulted in total disability, partial disability, or death.
HB 53 is not scheduled for review until January 2022, though. In the meantime, first responders in the state will continue to struggle to get the workers’ comp benefits they need to recover comfortably from the devastating virus. There is also no guarantee that the bill will be passed. With Florida legislation and politicians typically resisting COVID-19 mandates in all forms, there could be a significant chance that the bill will fail.
If you need help getting workers’ comp benefits after you were exposed to COVID-19 while working as a first responder in Florida, Van Dingenen Law can help you. Contact us online to request a free remote consultation, during which we can explain your rights and your options.