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What Do Virus Liability Shield Laws Mean for Workers’ Comp?

Nebraska Legislative Bill 139 would protect businesses from lawsuits by employees infected with COVID-19 at work, except in cases of gross negligence.

Despite the accusations slung about on social media, the people who contracted COVID-19 through wantonly reckless activities such as attending parties in crowded bars or airport hopping to celebrate their digital nomad lifestyle when their employers assigned them to work remotely represent only a fraction of COVID-19 cases. Many people who became infected took every safety measure available to them, interacting with others in person only because their jobs demanded it. Some of them worked in unsafe workplaces simply because they could not afford to miss out on a paycheck. It is easy to point fingers about who is to blame for shutdowns and for renewed surges of new infections, but if employers follow safety mandates, it is usually possible to keep workplaces operating with customers and employees interacting in person. The Nebraska legislature is considering a new bill meant to encourage business owners to comply with safety guidelines by limiting their liability for new COVID-19 infections among their workers. In the meantime, an Omahaworkers’ compensation lawyer can counsel you about disputes with your employers over exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus at work.

A Virus Liability Shield Law for Nebraska?

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a source of endless anxiety for employees and employers; in summary, it is a longer-lasting and more pervasive problem than most insurance policies were written to handle. On the one hand, business owners have become embroiled in disputes with their insurers over business interruption insurance. On the other hand, some business owners fear reopening, lest every worker who tests positive for COVID-19 file a workers’ compensation claim (which could get very expensive in the case of workers who suffer severe illness from the virus) or, worse, a lawsuit for negligence?

Some states have enactedvirus liability shields, which limit the instances in which COVID-infected workers can claim workers’ compensation or sue their employers for exposing them to the virus. These virus liability laws often require infected workers to prove that the exposure came from the worker’s job and not, for example, their child’s school or their spouse’s workplace; this can be difficult to prove in areas where community spread is prevalent.

Nebraska is considering its own virus liability law, namelylegislative bill 139. Its explicit purpose is to provide an incentive for businesses to follow safety guidelines. One of its provisions says that workers cannot sue their employers for damages related to COVID-19 illness unless there was negligence on the part of the employer, such as violating current CDC guidelines. If the bill becomes law, the liability shield will be in place until the end of 2022 or until the pandemic emergency ends, whichever happens first.

Contact Andres Law Offices, PC LLO About Virus Liability Shields

A workers’ compensation lawyer can help you stand up for your rights as you navigate the constantly changing laws related to COVID-19 and the workplace. Contact Andres Law Offices, PC LLO in Omaha, Nebraska about your workers’ compensation case.