To combat the rapid spread of the novel COVID-19 coronavirus, Governor Whitmer issued an executive order requiring the closure of all schools and businesses that are “not necessary to protect or sustain life.” Additionally, residents have been ordered to stay home except for when engaging in certain activities. As a result, most Michiganders are at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, but for employees of essential businesses, staying home may not be an option. These “critical infrastructure workers” face daily hazards at the workplace and may be exposed to the coronavirus on a daily basis.
The attorneys at Sommers Schwartz represent Michigan’s essential employees in personal injury claims and employment disputes related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who have contracted COVID-19 while employed as an essential worker may be entitled to compensation.
Our passionate team of lawyers proudly stands beside injured workers to ensure their rights are respected and enforced. Sommers Schwartz attorneys are nationally recognized as authorities in their respective practice areas, and we aggressively fight to clients get compensation after they suffer devastating injuries and illnesses.
The United States has the most COVID-19 cases in the world:
- 1,059,420 cases
- 61,458 deaths
- 6,107,634 COVID-19 tests administered
At 40,399 cases, Michigan has the seventh-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
At 3,670 deaths, Michigan has the third-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the nation.
Michigan has administered 177,228 COVID-19 tests since the beginning of the pandemic.
Source: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/ (as of 4/29/20)
Areas within Michigan with the highest number of COVID-19 cases are:
- City of Detroit – 8,957 cases
- Wayne County – 7,537 cases
- Oakland County – 7,159 cases
- Macomb County – 5,430 cases
The areas with the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in the state are:
- City of Detroit – 1,008 deaths
- Wayne County – 719 deaths
- Oakland County – 668 deaths
- Macomb County – 597 deaths
Eight percent of Michigan residents diagnosed with COVID-19 have passed away from complications associated with the virus.
Michigan COVID-19 cases by age:
- 0 to 19: 2% of the total cases
- 20 to 29: 10% of the total cases
- 30 to 39: 13% of the total cases
- 40 to 49: 16% of the total cases
- 50 to 59: 19% of the total cases
- 60 to 69: 17% of the total cases
- 70 to 79: 12% of the total cases
- 80 and older: 12% of the total cases
Michigan COVID-19- related deaths, by age:
- 0 to 19: fewer than 1% of the total deaths
- 20 to 29: fewer than 1% of the total deaths
- 30 to 39: 1% of the total deaths
- 40 to 49: 4% of the total deaths
- 50 to 59: 9% of the total deaths
- 60 to 69: 19% of the total deaths
- 70 to 79: 27% of the total deaths
- 80 and older: 39% of the total deaths
Across the United States, there are between 49 to 62 million essential workers, representing an estimated 34% to 43%of the total workforce.
Essential workers spend, on average, 55% of their time in close proximity with others.
Many essential workers earn less than the national average of $18.58 per hour.
12% of essential workers do not have health insurance
COVID-19 in Michigan
What Is COVID-19?
The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19 as it is known, is an infectious respiratory disease that spreads through the air. Droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes easily transmit the disease. COVID-19 can also spread when someone touches a contaminated surface and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.
What Are the Symptoms of COVID-19?
Symptoms of the disease are similar to the flu and include a dry cough, low-grade fever, and difficulty breathing.
Who Is Most at Risk?
Many, if not most, who contract the novel coronavirus will recover within a few weeks, but some individuals may need to be hospitalized. The primary concern is that the disease presents an increased risk of complications for those over 60, the immunocompromised, and individuals with certain pre-existing health conditions, including:
- Chronic lung conditions
- Serious heart conditions
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
How to Stay Safe
To reduce the spread of the disease and to stay safe, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that everyone:
- Stay at home and self-isolate if they are feeling unwell;
- Cover their nose and mouth with a disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing;
- Wash their hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with liquid soap and water;
- Follow social distancing protocol by avoiding close contact (within six feet) with those who may have the virus; and
- Wear a mask to prevent the spread of the virus, even if you do not have symptoms.
Where to Learn More about COVID-19
The COVID-19 crisis in Michigan is continually evolving from day to day, as do the suggestions on how to best mitigate against its spread. Below is a list of resources for those interested in learning more about the virus and how to stay safe:
- Center for Disease Control COVID-19 webpage
- Center for Disease Control COVID-19 FAQs
- World Health Organization
- Latest COVID-19 statistics
- Information for travelers
- Review Governor Whitmer’s Executive orders
Who Are Essential Workers in Michigan?
On March 24, 2020, Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a broadly phrased stay-at-home order, shutting down schools, government offices, and many businesses. Not all businesses and organizations were required to close their doors. The Governor’s order allowed those businesses and organizations that employ “critical infrastructure workers” to remain open. According to the Governor’s executive order, these sectors may contain critical infrastructure workers:
- Public health
- Food and agriculture
- Water and wastewater
- Transportation and logistics
- Public works
- Communications and information technology, including news media
- Other community-based government operations and essential functions
- Critical manufacturing
- Hazardous materials
- Financial services
- Chemical supply chains and safety
- Defense industrial base
- Law enforcement
- Public safety
- First responders
- Public transit
- Trash pick-up
- Childcare workers who serve the children or dependents of critical infrastructure workers
- Workers at certain suppliers and distribution centers
- Required insurance workers
- Workers and volunteers who provide food, shelter, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals
- Workers who perform critical labor union activities
While these activities have been deemed necessary to carry out the basic functions of society, there is also a heightened risk anytime people – including workers – go out in public. Thus, the Governor’s executive order requires that businesses and organizations that remain open adopt social distancing procedures to protect employees, customers, and others. These measures include:
- Restricting the number of workers to no more than is strictly necessary
- Promoting remote work when possible
- Keeping workers and customers at least six feet apart, when possible, including customers waiting in line.
- Increasing the cleaning and disinfecting of the facility
- Adopting policies to prevent those employees who exhibit respiratory symptoms from coming into work
- Any other social distancing measures adopted by the Center for Disease Control
Employers have an obligation to protect their employees from COVID-19. Those businesses that fail to implement these recommendations put employees at a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19. Employees who have contracted COVID-19 should reach out to one of the dedicated Michigan personal injury lawyers at Sommers Schwartz for immediate assistance. Our team of Detroit injury lawyers is ready to meet with employees over the phone or through video chat to discuss their cases. We have decades of experience advocating on behalf of injured employees and are prepared to address the unique challenges that COVID-19 work injury cases will present.
Compensation for Michigan Employees Diagnosed with COVID-19
Essential employees who have contracted COVID-19 may be entitled to monetary damages for what they have endured. Anytime someone is injured at work, certain complications can arise when pursuing a Michigan personal injury claim. Primarily, this is due to the “exclusive remedy” provision of the Michigan workers’ compensation law.
In general, when an employee is injured in a Michigan workplace accident, or they contract an occupational disease such as COVID-19, there are typically two types of claims they can pursue. The first is a workers’ compensation claim. A workers’ compensation claim is a way for an injured employee to quickly obtain limited benefits after a workplace injury or occupational illness. The Michigan workers’ compensation system is a no-fault system, meaning than an employee need not prove that their employer was negligent to recover. The downside to these claims is that they do not allow for the recovery of non-economic damages, such as compensation for pain and suffering. In cases involving employees who contract COVID-19, non-economic damages may be substantial.
The second claim that may be available to a Michigan essential employee who contracts COVID-19 is a personal injury claim. For the most part, there are no limits on the type of damages that can be awarded in a personal injury claim. To bring a successful personal injury claim, an injured worker must be able to establish that the named defendant was negligent and that the defendant’s negligence resulted in the worker’s injuries.
Typically, when an employee is injured on the job, their exclusive remedy against an employer is a workers’ compensation claim. Thus, absent an exception, an employee injured on the job can file for workers’ compensation but cannot pursue a personal injury case against their employer. However, the exclusive-remedy provision does not preclude an injured employee from pursuing a personal injury case against a third party. Third parties may include individuals, independent contractors, or other businesses such as vendors, suppliers, or service providers. Similarly, the sole remedy provision of the workers’ compensation act does not apply if the worker’s injury resulted from an employers’ willful or intentional actions.
Schedule a Free Consultation With an Experienced Michigan Essential Employee Attorney Today
If you or someone you care about has recently been diagnosed with COVID-19, contact the dedicated Detroit personal injury lawyers at Sommers Schwartz. Our knowledgeable team of personal injury attorneys have extensive experience handling all types of claims and can address the unique issues that will undoubtedly arise in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sommers Schwartz is closely following developments with the global pandemic and taking measures to protect the health and safety of our staff, their families, and the general public. We have assembled a response team focused on maintaining a healthy workplace and business continuity, and we are still able to offer the same high-quality representation for which we are known. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with one of our knowledgeable attorneys, call 866-443-4145 today.
Michigan COVID-19 statshttps://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/
Essential Worker statistics: https://www.brookings.edu/research/how-to-protect-essential-workers-during-covid-19/
More Michigan COVID-19 statistics: https://www.michigan.gov/coronavirus/0,9753,7-406-98163_98173—,00.html