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What Will Cure Our Nation’s Workplace Safety Issues: Lawsuits

The backbone of this country has always been the middle class. However, over the past couple of years, the middle class has been diminishing, and along with it, the American dream. The rich have become richer and the poor have become poorer. No where have we seen it more than during this pandemic. The divide in the American classes have been magnified by the coronavirus outbreak, and it has completely shaken our society as we know it. Our nation’s hardest working classes once again are left to pick up the pieces and pay the highest prices. More than 48 million labors are considered essential workers, and since the pandemic first reared its ugly head, almost one million Americans have fallen sick and victim to the virus. After two weeks of paid leave, what protections do these essential workers have while they are getting up to work every day and putting on their armor to battle COVID-19?

Now more than ever, we need to protect Americans, not only by fighting for better safety measures and proper training, but also by using the justice system to litigate matters, which will ultimately provide benefits for those who become victims of the coronavirus. As we saw published in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, Evan G. Greenberg’s op-ed “What Won’t Cure Corona: Lawsuits” argues that it’s the insurance companies that are facing major hardships during this pandemic.

As it is, the coronavirus pandemic imposes a heavy burden on the insurance industry. The crisis means tens of billions of dollars of additional claims. The economic shutdown means revenues are down, which will reduce earnings in turn.

While the economic shutdown has already had great impacts on almost all companies and industries, including the legal space, to say insurance companies are facing the heaviest burdens is a slap in the face to millions of health care and essential workers. We are talking about human lives here. Most Americans never signed up to battle a pandemic; moreover, they certainly did not expect to risk their lives every day at work due to the lack of protection and safety equipment. Even before the pandemic, companies like Amazon, Septa and UPS did not always properly train their employees or provide them with necessary gear. Many of our clients come to us for help after their leg was severed by heavy machinery, their finger was cut off work appliances, or they were attacked by a ferocious dog while delivering packages, leaving them paralyzed. Now, the risk for injuries, illnesses and disabilities have exponentially grown due to the pandemic. While this is at no fault to the employer or employee, the law is what protects these people and gives them their lives back after being been torn apart.

In workers’ compensation and Social Security disability, what is considered an injury or disability isn’t always black and white, as Mr. Greenberg tries to argue.

The overwhelming majority of insured coverage requires physical damage such as a fire or flood that prevents the business from operating. Viruses aren’t covered.

Currently, many states are adopting laws and adding language to existing laws to protect our nation’s most vulnerable workers. Legislation has been introduced that would direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to order all companies to implement comprehensive plans to protect workers who continue in their jobs during the pandemic. However, the guidelines aren’t mandatory or enforced and OSHA has its fewest inspectors in decades. Now with the agency avoiding in-person inspections, there virtually no enforcement with employers, resulting in a decline in safety precautions. That’s why it’s crucial to have workplace advocates and firms fighting to protect the worker.

More protections and safety gear are needed before reopening businesses. More and more states like Pennsylvania are working to pass laws that expand workers’ compensation benefits to health care workers if they contract COVID-19 on the front lines. My hope is that we will come out of the pandemic with greater workers’ rights, better wages and benefits, but most importantly, more safety measures. But for the essential companies with workers currently on the front lines, many whom are being infected at an overwhelming rate every day, time is not on their side. That is why law firms need to push back against insurance companies and people like Evan Greenberg who argue against lawsuits that protect these people. Sorry, Mr. Greenberg, the Rule of Law has always been foundational to our nation and its hard-working people. Litigation is one way to ensure America’s hardest working people have a standing chance against wealthy insurance companies. It’s simple: provide proper protections for your workers, or we will fight to protect them in court.

 

NOT INCLUDED:

  • Did the government abandon our military members during their darkest times of need?
  • Many of these essential workers are heroes not by choice.
  • Before the pandemic, it was harder to secure benefits for those who developed illnesses while at work. Over the last few years, this has changed. Invisible diseases like PTSD are just as real and deadly as physical injuries. Take PTSD for example: should military veterans who fought on the front lines in war zones not be provided medical help and insurance coverage on their road to recovery? Now it is health care workers putting on their armor to battle this pandemic. They deserve our thanks, but most importantly, they deserve our protection should they become injured, disabled or infected while working.
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