Are First Responders in Michigan Covered by Workers’ Compensation for COVID-19?

Paramedics taking patient on stretcher from ambulance to hospital

In March, Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Michigan in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Shortly thereafter, along with the Director of the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, Jeff Donofrio, Governor Whitmer enacted Emergency Rules regarding workers’ compensation coverage for certain workers. These emergency rules state that first responders are eligible for workers’ compensation “if they suffer a personal injury that arises out of and in the course of employment.”

Furthermore, according to the Emergency Rules, first responders are considered to have sustained a personal injury if:

  • Their employer orders the employee to be quarantined due to exposure to or suspected exposure to COVID-19
  • The employee is diagnosed by a medical professional as having COVID-19
  • The employee takes a coronavirus test that comes back positive or presumptively positive
  • The employee undergoes lab testing for COVID-19 that comes back positive

In other words, a first responder who is quarantined as a result of being possibly or actually exposed to COVID-19 or who is diagnosed with COVID-19 is presumed to have suffered a personal injury and is therefore covered by Michigan workers’ compensation under the current Emergency Rules.

Who Is Considered a “First Responder?”

According to the Department of the Attorney General, certain individuals are categorized as “first response employees.”

These include:

  • Health care workers, including health care facility and agency staff, practitioners, and professionals
  • Police officers
  • Firefighters
  • Paramedics

These first response employees are covered under the Emergency Rules provisions and may seek workers’ compensation benefits if they are quarantined or diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.

Filing for Your Workers’ Comp Benefits

If you are a first responder and your supervisor has ordered you to self-quarantine due to suspected or confirmed exposure to the virus, or if you have received a positive COVID-19 diagnosis from a medical professional, it is important that you begin the workers’ compensation claims process promptly. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, inform your employer right away. Your employer should file a workers’ compensation claim on your behalf.

We recommend working with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. Because these Emergency Rules are very new, it is a good idea to seek the guidance of an attorney even if you have not yet encountered any issues with your claim. There is a good chance that you will face some challenges in receiving your workers’ compensation benefits, and having an attorney on your side can help you meet and overcome those challenges.

To learn how our attorneys at Upper Michigan Law can help, contact us today. Attorney Sam Larrabee is a council member on the Workers' Compensation Law Section for the State Bar of Michigan. He has vast experience in representing first responders, including law enforcement and healthcare workers. Reach out to us now for a free, confidential consultation.