The COVID-19 crisis has taken a monumental toll on the entire healthcare system, not the least of which are the thousands of Illinois healthcare workers who courageously serve on the front lines in the fight against the virus. While nurses, doctors, physician assistants, pharmacists and other medical professionals may feel as though they are “only doing their job,” in reality, they are doing much more. These brave individuals sacrifice their own safety to care for others, and without them the COVID-19 crisis would claim many more lives. Unfortunately, healthcare workers across the country are contracting COVID-19 at a starling rate. Many of these cases would have been avoidable had hospitals been better prepared.
At Briskman Briskman & Greenberg, we represent Illinois healthcare workers – including doctors, physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists and administrative employees – who have contracted COVID-19. The coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented time for the country, and will undoubtedly raise many novel legal issues. Healthcare workers deserve a law firm who is prepared to take on these challenges. Our dedicated team of Chicago workplace injury lawyers has extensive experience handling all types of on-the-job accidents, including occupational illnesses such as COVID-19. At Briskman Briskman & Greenberg, we are proud to stand up for the rights of healthcare workers and their families, and hope to speak with you about your case.
- At least 5,400 healthcare workers have been infected with the novel coronavirus. However, the actual number of infected workers is thought to be much higher due to the lack of available testing.
- Information on the number of Illinois health care workers who are infected is not made publicly available. However, in nearby Michigan, at least 2,200 healthcare workers have been infected.
- There are 2,951,960 registered nurses in the United States
- While nurses make more than the average wage, they are also more frequently exposed to situations where they may become infected by COVID-19.
- On average, nurses make $34.49 per hour.
- On average, workers make $18.58 per hour.
- 89 percent of nurses spend significant time in close proximity with others
- On average, just 55.3 percent of workers spend close proximity with others.
- 93 percent of nurses are exposed to disease throughout their workday
- On average, just 19.9 percent of workers are exposed to disease throughout their day.
- 98.4 percent of nurses have frequent face-to-face interactions with others.
- On average, 85.3 percent of workers have frequent interaction with others throughout their day.
- On average, nurses make $34.49 per hour.
- Nursing assistants make, on average, slightly less than $14 per hour. Yet, 95 percent of nursing assistants are frequently in close proximity to others.
- Pharmacy technicians, on average, make slightly less than $16 per hour. Yet, 85 percent of pharmacy technicians are frequently in close proximity to others.
- 12 percent of all essential workers lack healthcare.
- Ambulatory health care facilities – 89.8 percent of employees have health insurance
- Hospitals – 95.9 percent of employees have health insurance
- Nursing and residential care facilities – 86.9 percent of employees have health insurance
- Many healthcare workers are considered “essential” and must report to work, despite the increased dangers during the coronavirus pandemic:
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, is an infectious respiratory disease that is primarily spread through the air. Often, the disease is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. COVID-19 can also spread when someone touches an infected surface and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.
Healthcare workers will likely know that the symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to the symptoms of the seasonal flu. They include a dry cough, low-grade fever and difficulty breathing, among other less common symptoms. Many of those who are young and healthy will recover if they become infected. However, even otherwise healthy people may become very ill and could need to be hospitalized. Notably, the disease presents an increased risk for those over 60 years of age as well as individuals with certain pre-existing health conditions. These conditions include:
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Serious heart conditions
- Chronic lung conditions
Those who are immunocompromised are also at a greater risk of suffering severe illness if they become infected.
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; and
- Stay at home and self-isolate if they are feeling unwell
While anyone who is exposed to the virus can be infected, healthcare workers including doctors, nurses and pharmacists, are the most at risk for contracting COVID-19. The majority of all healthcare workers have been deemed to be “essential workers” under Governor Pritzker’s stay-at-home order, and tens of thousands of these workers have stepped up to take up the fight, often putting themselves in harm’s way.
Healthcare Workers Face Unique Hazards in the Fight Against the Novel Coronavirus
Healthcare workers are on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. Given the speed at which the virus spreads, hospitals across the country are finding themselves short-staffed and lacking crucial protective equipment. This puts healthcare workers at a much higher risk of infection. Healthcare workers face several threats when it comes to the novel coronavirus.
By the very nature of their job, healthcare workers spend a significant amount of time around those who are infected with COVID-19. According to a recent study, over 93 percent of nurses are frequently exposed to disease, and 98 percent are frequently in face-to-face contact with others, including patients. Because COVID-19 can spread easily through the air, hospitals have become breeding grounds for the virus. Nurses and doctors who work in hospitals are constantly around infected patients, and by that fact alone, are at an increased risk of contracting the virus.
Personal protective equipment (PPE), such as N95 respirator masks, isolation gowns, facemasks and eye protection, can mitigate the risks of infection for healthcare workers. However, PPE of all types have been in short supply across the country. As a result, many Illinois healthcare workers have been required to re-use equipment that was designated for a single use. Some medical professionals have even had to jerry-rig their own protective equipment out of more commonly available supplies. Re-used and home-made equipment, while better than nothing, is not an acceptable replacement for those who are already placing themselves in danger to care for others who are sick.
Staff shortages and an overburdened system add to the dangers facing Illinois healthcare workers. Nurses and doctors are being asked to work around the clock. The shortage of healthcare workers got so bad, that in late March Governor Pritzker asked retired doctors, nurses and physician assistances, to come back to the workforce to “joint the fight” against COVID-19.
The unfortunate result is that healthcare workers across Illinois are caring for the sick without rest, protective equipment or enough support to safely do their job. Because of this, many healthcare workers across the state have already become infected with COVID-19, and it is expected that hundreds – or thousands – more will follow. Healthcare workers who have contracted COVID-19 should reach out to one of the dedicated Chicago personal injury lawyers at Briskman Briskman & Goldberg for immediate assistance. Our team of Illinois workplace injury lawyers are ready to meet with employees over the phone or through video chat to discuss their cases. We have over 30 years of experience advocating on behalf of injured employees, and are prepared to address the unique challenges that COVID-19 work injury cases will present.
Can Illinois Healthcare Workers Recover Financial Compensation After Contracting COVID-19?
Healthcare workers who have contracted COVID-19 may be eligible for two types of compensation. Generally, if a healthcare worker is injured while performing any job-related duties they can file a claim for workers’ compensation. The Illinois workers’ compensation system provides a no-fault process for healthcare workers to obtain benefits after an on-the-job injury, including occupational illnesses such as COVID-19. Thus, to obtain benefits a healthcare worker would only need to show that they contracted the virus while at work.
The workers’ compensation process is faster than filing a personal injury claim, however, it also limits the available benefits to medical expenses and lost wages. Thus, injured healthcare workers cannot obtain compensation for their pain and suffering through a workers’ compensation claim. Typically, a workers’ compensation claim is an employee’s sole remedy against their employer; however, due to the unique nature of the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the structure of the healthcare industry, there may be instances where a healthcare worker can pursue a personal injury claim
Healthcare workers who contract COVID-19 may be able to file a personal injury case, either against their employer or a third party. The sole-remedy provision of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act only precludes lawsuits against an “employer,” and only in certain situations. In the healthcare industry, contract work is common, and an independent contractor may not be covered by the sole-remedy provision. Similarly, an employer is not protected under the workers’ compensation laws for injuries to an employee that is the result of an employer’s willful or intentional actions. While this area of the law is underdeveloped, certainly it will be argued that hospitals act willfully when they require nurses and doctors to work with COVID-19 patients knowing that they have no personal protective equipment.
A healthcare worker can also pursue a Chicago personal injury claim against a third party who is responsible for their injuries or infection. This includes nurses and doctors who contract COVID-19 due to the negligence of another person or business. Third-party claims are quite complex, especially those arising in the medical field, and should be handled by attorneys with extensive experience handling Chicago workplace injury lawsuits.
Contact an Experienced Chicago Workplace Accident Law Firm
If you or someone you care about has recently been diagnosed with COVID-19 or suffered any type of workplace injury as a healthcare worker, the dedicated Illinois personal injury lawyers at Briskman Briskman & Greenberg can help. Our attorneys represent healthcare workers and their families in personal injury lawsuits and workers’ compensation claims. Our firm has over 30 years of experience advocating on behalf of Chicago workers, and we know what it takes to succeed on our clients’ behalf. From the moment you invite us to work on your case, we diligently investigate your claim, seeking to uncover all potentially liable parties and theories of liability. All cases are handled on a contingency basis, meaning we will only accept payment if we are successful in getting compensation for you or your family. We are here for you and your family during this difficult time, and while our physical offices remain closed, we are working remotely and can arrange to discuss your case over the phone or through video chat. To learn more, call 1-877-595-4878 to schedule a free consultation today.