COVID-19 Claims: Compensability Under the Heart & Lung Act , Act 632 and/or Act 534
There are currently thousands of individuals in Pennsylvania who are placing themselves at risk of contracting COVID-19 in an effort to treat or provide assistance to others. This type of selflessness should not go unrecognized, especially for those whose health is endangered as a result of their service, so if you are a police officer, fire fighter, or corrections officer in Pennsylvania and contracted COVID-19 while at work, it is important to speak with an experienced Pennsylvania Heart & Lung Act Attorney who can help you seek compensation for your wage loss, vacation, sick time and retirement accrual and medical bills.
COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Claims
Although Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation law recognizes a few occupational medical conditions as compensable, COVID-19 has not yet been added to the list of covered diseases. It is likely, however, despite this omission, that Pennsylvania courts will award benefits to those who contract COVID-19 while in the workplace if a claimant can establish a causal connection between the onset of the illness and exposure at work. Fortunately, the burden of proving a link between onset and exposure will undoubtedly be lowered for certain employees, including fire fighters, corrections officers, and police officers, and people that work with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections as the spread of disease is substantially greater in those industries, which require close contact with a wide range of individuals.
Heart and Lung Act Benefits
The Heart and Lung Act applies to broad classes of Pennsylvania employees, specifically including the following:
- State police
- Liquor Control Board: Enforcement Officers or Investigators
- Board of Probation and Parole: Parole Agents, Enforcement Officers and Investigators
- Department of Corrections: Correction Employees with Principal Duties of Care, Custody and Control of Inmates
- Department of Human Services / Department of Corrections: Psychiatric Security Aides with Principal Duties of Care, Custody and Control of Inmates
- Office of Attorney General: Drug Enforcement Agents whose principal duty is the enforcement of the drug laws of the Commonwealth
- Office of Attorney General: Special Agents whose principal duty is the enforcement of the criminal laws of the Commonwealth
- Delaware River Port Authority Police
- Any Policemen, Fireman or Park Guard of any County, City, Borough, Town or Township
- Commonwealth: Firemen
- Any Sheriff or Deputy Sheriff
- Pennsylvania Game Commission / Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission: Any Enforcement Officer or Investigator
Qualified individuals who contract COVID-19 while at work, may also be entitled to compensation under the Heart and Lung Act. This law guarantees that these individuals will continue to receive their full salaries including pay raises during their incapacitation, as well as payment of medical expenses, and accrual of their vacation, sick time and retirement credits if they can prove that they contracted an illness while in the “performance of their duties.” Unlike Act 534/632, the Heart and Lung Act only provides benefits to covered employees whose injuries are temporarily disabling.
Act 534/632 Benefits
Act 632/534 applies to broad classes of Pennsylvania employees, specifically including any employee of:
- Any employee of a State Penal or Correctional Institution under Bureau of Correction of the Department of Justice
- Any employee of a State Mental Hospital or Youth Development Center under the Department of Public Welfare
- Any employee of County Boards of Assistance
- Any employee of the Department of Public Welfare who has been assigned to or who has volunteered to join the firefighting force of any institution of the Department of Public Welfare
Those enumerated employees are eligible to receive benefits under Act 632/534 when injured by the act of an inmate or any person confined in such institution or by any person who has been committed to such institution by any court of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or by any provision of the “Mental Health Act” (State penal / correctional / state mental hospital / youth development center) or by the act of an applicant for recipient of public assistance (Employee of County Boards of Assistance) or carrying out firefighting duties (DPW Firefighting force). In order to receive those benefits, the burden of proof is initially on the covered employee to prove that his or her work-related injury was caused by the required “act.”
Those enumerated employees that contract the virus or are exposed to the virus by an “act of an inmate” may qualify for Act 632 or 534 benefits. Unlike employees who receive benefits under the workers’ compensation program, Act 534/632 compensates covered employees at their full salary while they are unable to work. This includes coverage of all medical expenses, as well as the continuance of full benefits and pension contributions. Claimants who can demonstrate that they are covered by Act 632/534, have a dual entitlement to benefits under the state’s workers’ compensation law; however, they cannot receive pay under both laws.
Call Today for Help with Your COVID-19 Claim
Whether you are a police officer, fire fighter, corrections officer or one of the other enumerated employees and contract COVID-19 while on the job, recovering compensation depends on the parties’ actions after becoming ill, including whether they take steps to preserve the evidence that will support their case, including medical records, time sheets, and eyewitness testimony. For help investigating and proving your claim, please call me directly at 570-954-9299 to speak with an experience Heart and Lung Act and Act 632/534 lawyer, Keith Figured, at the Figured Law Firm today.