Essential Workers Potentially at Risk for Accidents and Contracting Coronavirus
Every day, thousands of New York City workers are out in public having to work despite the high presence of the coronavirus in the five boroughs and surrounding counties because their jobs are deemed essential. Overworked, stressed out, fearful, and distracted are all factors that can negatively impact a safe working experience creating risk for an accident. Furthermore, many workers have been told to come to work no matter what unless they themselves are experiencing symptoms.
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New York State and New York City, in particular, carry the burden of the highest number of COVID-19 positive tests in the country. The number of cases ballooned so quickly Governor Cuomo closed public schools, shut down all non-essential businesses, and ordered all non-essential employees to stay home in hopes of containing the spread and relieving the pressure of already-overburdened healthcare facilities.
While this protects the millions of people who live across the state and are able to stay home, what about those people who are deemed “essential”? These workers are out there fulfilling their duties during this pandemic. Not only are they subject to the same risks and accidents in the usual course of their jobs, but now they have the added risk of contracting coronavirus.
DOCTORS AND NURSES
Doctors and nurses are increasingly facing difficult work conditions as COVID-19 rapidly spreads. Being on the front lines of this battle against the virus, these employees are at the highest risk of falling ill. Yet, despite the obvious hazards they face, doctors and nurses are also facing unnecessary risks due to the negligent actions of their employers.
Many employers are not providing doctors and nurses with sufficient protective gear, requiring them to reuse masks and gowns. Many are also demanding they work long hours. What’s also frightening is some media reports tell the story of many doctors and nurses being required to come to work even if they are:
- Showing just slight symptoms or
- Have tested positive for COVID-19 but are asymptomatic
Additionally, many employers have set lax policies for doctors and nurses to follow when treating patients, and this creates an increased risk of infection for everyone.
These types of unsafe conditions are unacceptable as they put doctors and nurses (and their patients) at a high risk of exposure to coronavirus. The high stress and exhaustion doctors and nurses are experiencing also set the conditions for work-related accidents or injury to occur.
The brave men and women in blue are exposed to numerous dangers on any given day. The CDC recommends law enforcement personnel should have personal protective equipment, but there are allegations the city hasn’t provided sufficient gear. To date, hundreds of NYPD members have tested positive for COVID-19. This is leading to other law enforcement personnel having to cover the increased number of absences. Overworked and unprotected, these unsafe conditions put police officers in jeopardy and create circumstances for serious work-related accidents or injuries to occur.
Many construction workers are busy working on NYC luxury properties with less than sanitary conditions. They work side by side with no way to practice social distancing and share portable toilets (with no soap, running water, or hand sanitizer), tools, elevators, and they may or may not have access to clean masks. These conditions, and other negligent policies put in place by contractors and building owners (deeming employees essential for non-essential projects), put construction workers in a position to being infected with COVID-19. In unsafe environments, they also face higher risks of being involved in a construction-related accident.
EMS AND FIREFIGHTERS
The courageous men and women who go out every day to save lives and fight fires are also allegedly not receiving proper personal protective equipment. Dozens of EMS and firefighters are testing positive for COVID-19, and the numbers grow each day. Long hours, the stress of being exposed to serious illness, and a lack of protective gear aren’t encouraging a safe working environment. All of these factors increase the risk of EMS workers and firefighters falling ill or being involved in a job-related accident.
New York’s sanitation workers provide an essential service. What exposures they might encounter throughout the course of their jobs is not yet known. They are handling all sorts of trash, including medical trash from facilities but also from residents who may not follow proper disposal procedures. By not ensuring sanitation workers are adequately protected from coronavirus exposure, employers negligently increase their employees’ risk for illness or being involved in an accident during the course of their job.
BUS DRIVERS AND TRAIN OPERATORS
Despite the MTA shuttering several rail and bus services, many workers are required to report to their jobs. The public has been encouraged to only come out for essentials, but people are still riding and it’s been reported the MTA isn’t providing all employees with protective masks despite their heavy interaction with the public. Who gets a mask, or other protective gear, is selective. The high stress creates an unsafe working experience for many transportation workers, further increasing their risk of injury or causing an accident that could hurt New Yorkers using public transportation.
TRUCK DRIVERS AND FOOD DELIVERY DRIVERS
Truck drivers are an essential piece of the supply chain, and the isolation of being in trucks is helpful. However, it’s important to consider these workers are potentially exposed to each delivery they make to businesses or to consumers and should have proper protection against coronavirus exposure. You can imagine the harm a potentially unhealthy truck driver could do if an accident occurred as a result of driving while seriously impaired. Employers that are negligent in providing protective gear and establishing a good protocol for making deliveries put their workers at risk for injury.
RESTAURANT AND SUPERMARKET WORKERS
Many NYC restaurants and stores remain open amidst the current restrictions imposed by city officials, New York State, and the federal government. Since food is essential, many must stay open and rely on workers to help them stock shelves, put together orders, and make transactions with customers. Employers that aren’t proactive in creating a safe working environment for their employees put them at high risk for illness or injury.
Many unsung heroes are subject to dangers, unsafe practices, and other yet unknowns increasing their risks of contracting COVID-19. A number of workers may have even already been exposed, but due to the lack of available testing and the 14-day incubation period of the coronavirus, workers could be sick or inadvertently passing the virus to others. Others may be in high-risk categories for contracting the serious symptoms associated with COVID-19 but are required to report to work anyway.
While many jobs are critical, there are some workers who perhaps don’t need to go to work during this crisis. Those who are truly essential should have the proper safety equipment and gear they need to protect themselves, their loved ones, and anyone else they come in contact with. The attorneys at Raphaelson & Levine are dedicated to exploring any situation where a person was unnecessarily exposed to coronavirus.
Can I Sue Someone For Infecting Me With COVID-19?
For a person to pursue a coronavirus-related personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, it has to be proven the defendant (i.e. an employer) breached their duty which led to the sickness. In other words, there must be sufficient evidence that exposure to other infected individuals led to serious illness or death. It must be established harm was caused by another person’s action (or inaction) and that they had a responsibility to act differently.
The collection of documentation demonstrating negligence would be critical for a personal injury lawsuit to succeed. This documentation could come in the form of an employer acting negligently by not sending ill workers home, forcing non-essential workers to come in, or by not providing employees with proper protective gear.
Every situation is unique and our attorneys would have to carefully examine each case. Right now, the COVID-19pandemic is very fluid and the facts are still emerging. We would definitely look at any physical (contraction of the virus), emotional, or financial harm caused to an injured person and/or their family.
When To Call A Personal Injury Attorney
The law firm of Raphaelson & Levine is highly concerned about the safety of New Yorkers. We are actively monitoring the coronavirus outbreak and carefully following the news coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to learn everything we can about the situation.
As the number of coronavirus cases spread through the United States, New York is currently the epicenter for COVID-19 infections. There have been more victims in New York State and NYC and it grows exponentially by each day. Employees have a reasonable expectation their employers will keep them safe and provide protection to ensure they aren’t harmed or become seriously ill from this virus.
If you believe you, or a loved one, has been infected with coronavirus because an employer didn’t provide the right safety equipment, forced workers to reuse masks (unsafe), required work to be performed in a risky environment, or didn’t set conditions for quarantining or safe social distancing, you may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. If the criteria exist for your situation, you should seek legal advice.
Here When You Need Us The Most
The caring and compassionate attorneys at Raphaelson & Levine understand the scary situation New Yorkers are currently facing. We are dedicated to ensuring the rights of New Yorkers are protected. We’re actively gathering details about COVID-19 and any potential coronavirus cases people might have due to the negligence of another party in this rapidly evolving legal area. If you’d like to learn more about the requirements necessary to prove a coronavirus-related personal injury lawsuit or to obtain a free consultation, call or contact the law offices of Raphaelson & Levine today at 212-268-3222.
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