The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on the lives of all Americans, and the state of Georgia has been hit particularly hard. Under Governor Kemp’s stay-at-home order, schools are closed, and all but essential workers are expected to shelter in place. If you are one of those essential workers and are injured on the job or have issues with an existing claim, you may have a difficult time securing the workers’ compensation benefits you deserve.
Who Are Essential Workers in Georgia?
Clearly, not everyone can stay home. Many of us are considered “essential” to the health and wellbeing of the greater community. These workers are expected to continue to report to work to keep life-sustaining services operational. The governor’s list of essential workers includes the following:
- Healthcare workers and first responders
- Law enforcement personnel
- Grocery and restaurant workers
- Pharmacy employees necessary for filling prescriptions
- Commercial truck drivers
- Mass transit and airport workers
- Postal and package delivery workers
- Energy workers
- Public works employees
- Cell phone, internet, and television service providers
- Agriculture and farm workers
- Building cleaners or janitors
- Sanitation workers
- Mortuary and funeral service workers
- Workers in critical manufacturing operations
- Bank employees necessary to process transactions
As these people continue to work through the crisis, they are facing increasingly difficult work environments.
Challenges Faced by Essential Workers in Georgia
Workers from emergency room nurses to Target cashiers have seen tremendous changes in their work environments since the outbreak of COVID-19. Fewer available workers and high demand for these services have created stressful workplaces, longer hours, and an increased likelihood of an on-the-job injury. Healthcare workers are seeing a higher volume of patients and face hazards such as exposure to the coronavirus and overexertion injuries. Retail workers’ duties have shifted from stocking shelves and working registers to filling curbside pick-up and delivery orders, risking back injuries, falls, and vehicle collisions. Under ordinary circumstances, workers who are injured and unable to work would file for workers’ comp benefits. These might not be ordinary times, but injured workers should still file for the benefits they deserve.
Effects of COVID-19 on New and Existing Workers' Compensation Claims
If you are an essential worker who suffered an injury at work, you should not hesitate to pursue a workers’ comp claim. New claims are still being accepted, but the process may be more complicated than usual. An experienced workers’ comp attorney can help you navigate these challenges. If you have an existing claim, you are probably experiencing cancellation of ongoing medical treatment and postponed surgeries. You may only be able to talk to your doctor over the phone, and your light-duty assignment may have been eliminated. These changes and delays are frustrating and confusing, but our workers’ compensation team can help you get through it.
Should You File for Workers' Comp or Unemployment?
Because access to unemployment benefits has been eased and the amount individuals can qualify for has increased for many people during the COVID-19 crisis, you might be wondering whether you should just file for unemployment instead of workers’ comp, even if you are suffering from a workplace injury. This is an excellent question. There are pros and cons to each, depending on your specific circumstances. Our workers’ compensation attorneys would be happy to help you make the right call.
Call Rechtman & Spevak With Your Questions
It’s never easy to struggle with a workplace injury, but given the limited services available and the uncertainty we face at this particular time, it’s even more difficult. We want you to know that the workers’ compensation lawyers and staff at Rechtman & Spevak are available to help you with your legal matters. We are offering complimentary virtual consultations via video conference in lieu of in-person meetings, and we are also accessible through e-mail, text, and phone. If you have a question about a new or existing workers’ comp claim, please reach out to us as soon as possible.