Houston Healthcare Employee Work Injury Law Firm
Ever since the first case of COVID-19, the nation’s healthcare system has been fighting to keep up with the virus. Indeed, the novel coronavirus has placed a burden on the healthcare system unlike any it has ever seen. Texas healthcare workers are on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19, and face countless challenges as they do everything they can to treat those infected with COVID-19. However, in doing so, medical workers are placing themselves at great risk.
Many Texas healthcare workers have dealt with exceptionally hazardous conditions for months, with no end in sight. Despite efforts to close schools, shut down businesses and require residents to stay at home, there are still tens of thousands of Texans who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 across the state. Because healthcare workers selflessly put themselves on the front line to fight against the coronavirus, thousands have contracted the virus themselves. Sadly, many of these cases could have been prevented had hospitals been more prepared.
At The de la Garza Law Group, we represent Houston medical workers who have been affected by the novel coronavirus in personal injury and workers’ compensation claims. Our experienced attorneys have decades of collective experience representing injury victims and are well equipped to handle the unique challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic will pose to Texas courts.
The United States has the most COVID-19 cases in the world:
- 1,767,504 cases
- 103,301 deaths
- 16,289,595 million COVID-19 tests administered
At 34,508 cases, Texas has the ninth highest number of COVID-19 cases in the United States.
At 971 deaths, Texas has the fifteenth highest number of COVID-19 cases in the United States
Texas has administered over 441,000 COVID-19 tests since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Texas counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases are:
- Dallas County – 9,385cases
- Denton County – 1,285 cases
- El Paso County – 2,569 cases
- Fort Bend County – 1,766 cases
- Harris County – 11,542 cases
- Potter County – 2,266 cases
- Tarrant County – 5,190 cases
- Travis County – 3,057 cases
The Texas counties with the highest number of COVID-19 fatalities are:
- Dallas County – 221 deaths
- Harris County – 223 deaths
- Tarrant County – 155 deaths
- Travis County – 91 deaths
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 676,860 healthcare workers in Texas:
- 22,770 pharmacists
- 8,380 family and general practitioners
- 4,520 general internists
- 3,480 surgeons
- 8,040 physician assistants
- 218,090 registered nurses
- 13,620 nurse practitioners
- 19,380 emergency medical technicians and paramedics
- 70,290 Licenses practical nurses and licenses vocational nurses
- 300,820 home healthcare aides
- 80,110 nursing assistants
- 65,170 medical assistants
As of mid-April, at least 9,200 healthcare workers have been infected with the novel coronavirus. However, the actual number of infected workers is thought to be much higher due to the lack of available testing.
- At least 743 healthcare workers have been hospitalized as a result of COVID-19
- At least 184 healthcare workers have been admitted to the ICU as a result of COVID-19
- 27 Healthcare workers across the country have died from COVID-19.
Of those healthcare workers who contracted COVID-19 while on the front lines:
- The median age was 42
- 73 percent were female
- 90 percent were not hospitalized
- 55 percent reported that the only contact with COVID-19 was through their work
55 percent of all healthcare workers who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 are believed to have contracted the virus at work.
While nurses make more than the average wage, they are also more frequently exposed to situations where they may become infected by COVID-19.
- On average, Texas nurses make about $35 per hour.
- The average wage in the United States is $18.58 per hour.
- 89 percent of nurses spend significant time in close proximity with others
- On average, just 55.3 percent of workers spend close proximity with others.
- 93 percent of nurses are exposed to disease throughout their workday
- On average, just 19.9 percent of workers are exposed to disease throughout their day.
- 98.4 percent of nurses have frequent face-to-face interactions with others.
- On average, just 85.3 percent of workers have frequent interaction with others throughout their day.
Texas nursing assistants make, on average, slightly less than $13 per hour. Yet, 95 percent of nursing assistants are frequently in close proximity to others.
Texas pharmacy technicians, on average, make slightly more than $17 per hour. Yet, 85 percent of pharmacy technicians are frequently in close proximity to others.
Many healthcare workers are considered “essential” and must report to work, despite the increased dangers during the coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19 in Texas
The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, is an infectious respiratory disease that is transmitted through the air. Specifically, the virus is spread through small droplets which are released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. COVID-19 can also spread when someone touches an infected surface and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.
- Symptoms of COVID-19
Symptoms of the disease are similar to the symptoms of the flu, including a dry cough, fever and difficulty breathing. Some patients report a loss of smell, general aches and pains, nasal congestion, a runny nose, sore throat and diarrhea. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should isolate themselves from others and immediately reach out to a healthcare professional to determine whether they should be tested.
- Who Is at the Highest Risk?
Most who contract the novel coronavirus will recover within a few weeks without any serious complications. However, even healthy individuals may need to be hospitalized, and possibly ventilated, before recovering. The major concern with COVID-19 is that it presents an increased risk of complications for those over 60 years of age, the immunocompromised, as well as individuals with certain pre-existing health conditions, including:
- Chronic lung conditions
- Serious heart conditions
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Staying Safe During the COVID-19 Pandemic
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 or, alternatively, use an alcohol-based hand-sanitizer;
- 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.
- Interested in Learning More?
The COVID-19 crisis in Texas is constantly changing each day, and so do the suggestions on how to best prevent against the spread of the virus. Below is a list of resources for those interested in learning more about the virus and how to stay safe during the pandemic:
- Review Governor Abbott’s Executive orders
- Governor Abbott’s plan to reopen Texas
- A list of Texas essential services
- Center for Disease Control COVID-19 webpage
- Center for Disease Control COVID-19 FAQs
- World Health Organization
- Latest COVID-19 statistics
- Information for travelers
Texas Medical Workers Face a Serious Risk of Contracting COVID-19
For many Texas healthcare workers, treating patients who tested positive for COVID-19, or have been exposed to the virus, is a daily occurrence. Ever since the virus first showed up on United States’ soil, medical workers have held the front line in an attempt to help those infected with COVID-19 while doing everything they can to limit the spread of the virus. Needless to say, Texas doctors, nurses and pharmacists face serious risks each and every day they get up to go to work.
The most apparent risk facing many Texas medical workers is that they are in direct contact with patients who are COVID-19-positive or have been exposed to those who have tested positive. Medical experts agree that COVID-19 is extremely contagious and can be transmitted through the air to those within six feet of an infected person. Nurses and doctors, in particular, spend much of their time in close proximity with patients. Indeed, according to a recent study conducted by the Brookings Institute, over 93 percent of nurses are frequently exposed to disease, and 98 percent of nurses frequently have face-to-face contact with others, including sick patients. Given this reality, hospitals are an ideal environment for COVID-19 to spread. Healthcare workers, including nurses, doctors, pharmacists and physician assistants who work in hospitals and are constantly around infected patients are at an increased risk of contracting the virus.
Adding to the dangers facing Texas healthcare workers is the fact that many hospitals across the state have experienced a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). All medical workers rely on PPE to protect themselves and reduce the chances of spreading disease to other workers, patients and the general public. PPE includes N95 respirator masks, facemasks, gloves, isolation gowns and eye protection, and is especially important for those treating patients with COVID-19. Due to shortages of PPE, many Texas nurses and doctors have been forced to rig their own PPE out of more commonly available material. Others have re-used PPE that was intended for a single use. Of course, re-used and home-made supplies do not offer the same protective qualities as the PPE that healthcare workers are used to having. Of course, re-used and home-made supplies are not an acceptable replacement for front-line healthcare workers who are already placing themselves in harm’s way to care for others with COVID-19.
Finally, Texas medical workers face a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 due to staff shortages and hospital overcrowding. A large part of the reason why the COVID-19 pandemic is so concerning is that the virus has the ability to completely overload the medical system, which was not designed to treat so many patients at one time. Hospitals are full. Staff is overworked. Some have even reported that patients were being treated in the hallway.
Texas healthcare workers are being asked to perform a herculean task without the necessary support to safely do the job. Not surprisingly, healthcare workers across Texas have already been infected with COVID-19, and experts believe that the number of infected healthcare workers will continue to grow at a rapid pace. The CDC estimates that, as of mid-April, there had been over 9,200 medical workers infected with COVID-19, and 27 have lost their lives as a result of the virus. Healthcare workers who have contracted COVID-19 should reach out to one of the dedicated Texas personal injury lawyers at The de la Garza Law Group to speak with an attorney about their case.
Compensation for Houston Medical Employees Diagnosed with COVID-19
Texas healthcare workers who contracted COVID-19 after being exposed at work may be entitled to compensation for their injuries. Compensation may come through one of two types of claims: a Texas workers’ compensation claim or a Texas personal injury claim.
Workers’ compensation claims are a way for employees who are injured on the job, or develop an occupation illness, to obtain limited compensation in lieu of pursuing a personal injury claim against their employer. One of the key benefits of filing a workers’ compensation claim is that the injured worker does not need to prove that their employer was at fault for their injury or illness. In fact, the Texas workers’ compensation program is a no-fault system, and even an employee who was partially responsible for their injury can obtain compensation. Additionally, the workers’ compensation system is typically much faster than filing a personal injury claim. However, to successfully obtain Texas workers’ compensation benefits, a medical worker must be able to show that they contracted COVID-19 due to their employment.
A Texas workers’ compensation claim only offers limited benefits to employees, including payment for lost wages and any medical expenses related to the injury or illness. However, workers’ compensation claimants are not entitled to non-economic damages such as compensation for their physical pain and emotional suffering. To obtain workers’ comp benefits, an employee need only show that their injury or illness occurred at work or due to their employment. However, an employer may contest a Texas workers’ comp claim, arguing that a healthcare worker was exposed to the virus elsewhere.
The second type of claim healthcare workers can bring is a Texas personal injury case. For the most part, there are no limits on the type or amount of damages that can be awarded in a Texas personal injury claim (only punitive damages are limited in Texas). Thus, medical workers may obtain both compensatory damages as well as non-economic damages. These can cover all the costs associated with a COVID-19 diagnosis, including medical expenses, lost wages, as well as compensation for pain and suffering. However, to successfully bring a personal injury claim, a worker must be able to establish that the named defendant was negligent, and that the defendant’s negligence resulted in their injuries.
Under Texas law, typically, a workers’ compensation claim is an injured employee’s exclusive remedy against their employer. However, Texas is unique in that obtaining workers’ compensation insurance is optional. Thus, if an employer purchases workers’ compensation insurance, then an injured employee will generally be limited to filing a workers’ compensation claim. However, if an employer decides not to obtain workers’ compensation insurance, then an employee can pursue a personal injury claim against their employer. Most large employers in Texas, such as hospitals, will have workers’ compensation insurance. However, even if an employer has workers’ compensation insurance, an injured employee can pursue a workers’ compensation claim against their employer if their injuries were caused by the employer’s intentional acts or commissions, or the employer was grossly negligent. Finally, the exclusive remedy provision does not apply to third parties that cause the employee’s injuries such as an employee of another business, a supplier, vendor or independent contractor.
Contact a Houston Healthcare Employee Workplace Injury Lawyer Today
If you or someone you care about is a healthcare worker and has recently been diagnosed with COVID-19, contact the knowledgeable Houston personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at The de la Garza Law Group. Employers, including hospitals, are responsible for creating a safe workplace, and healthcare workers who have become ill as a result of their employment may be entitled to compensation for their injuries. The legal issues presented by the COVID-19 pandemic are unique, and Texas courts will be wrestling with how to handle many of these cases. The experienced attorneys at The de la Garza Law Group are here to help you and your family through this challenging time and are prepared to take on the challenges these cases present. We proudly represent Texas medical workers across Harris County who have contracted COVID-19 while on the job, either through a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury claim.
At The de la Garza Law Group, our team of dedicated Houston personal injury lawyers is dedicated to helping clients obtain compensation for their injuries. We understand that your emotional and financial wellbeing are at stake after a COVID-19 diagnosis, and we will do everything we can to help. We offer all clients a free, no-obligation consultation in which we will provide an honest and thorough assessment of your case. To learn more, call 713-784-1010, or call toll-free at 844-784-1010. We proudly represent clients throughout Harris County, Fort Bend County and Montgomery County, including in the Woodlands, Pearland and Sugar Land.
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