Anyone who’s ever worked in an office knows that when one employee catches a cold, it’s only a matter of time before the entire company is sick. But in Charlotte’s medical workplaces, such as hospitals, clinics, urgent care centers, and doctor offices, the risk of developing a job-related infection is much higher. Even with rigorous cleaning, infections and communicable diseases can spread from a patient or infected surface to anyone who works at the facility. A severe infection, such as MRSA, can be so harmful and debilitating that the infected employee becomes disabled and unable to work.
When an employee at a hospital, clinic, or other healthcare facility in Charlotte becomes infected at the workplace, he or she may be entitled to workers’ compensation, which provides disability benefits while compensating the worker for medical bills and loss of income. However, the process of getting the benefits you deserve can be a challenge, especially if your claim is denied. Aggressive legal representation can make the process faster and easier for you, so that you can start getting benefits sooner. To learn more about getting workers’ compensation for occupational illnesses and infections in North Carolina, call the Charlotte work infection lawyers of the Ramsay Law Firm at (704) 376-1616 for a free consultation.
Contagious Infections and MRSA in the Workplace
It is shockingly easy to pick up infections in the workplace. While the risk is especially great for healthcare workers, such as nurses, hospital janitors, and hospital receptionists, any person in any work environment can be exposed to aggressive, difficult-to-treat infections if a fellow coworker is infected. People whose occupations bring them into physical contact with numerous people are at heightened risk, including:
- Daycare Workers
- Gym Employees
- Nursing Home Staff Members
- Social Workers
In many cases, the signs and symptoms of an infection take days or weeks to develop. During this “incubation period,” the infected employee can unknowingly spread the infection to countless coworkers. Depending on how a disease or infection is transmitted, something as simple as brief skin-to-skin contact could create a risk of exposure.
While many different infectious diseases threaten healthcare workers and others, some infections pose a special risk due to the severity of the symptoms and/or difficulty of treatment. One of the most common yet most debilitating infections in the workplace is MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which is a type of staph infection, or infection caused by staph bacteria.
MRSA is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, which means a gesture as simple as a handshake could expose an employee to the infection. A person can also get MRSA from contact with non-living objects, such as bandages, clothing, or towels that have been in contact with an infected wound or cut. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify five risk factors for MRSA exposure in the workplace, called the “five C’s”:
- Compromised Skin (Cuts)
- Contact (Skin-to-Skin)
- Contaminated Items
- Inadequate Cleanliness
What makes MRSA different from most workplace infections is the difficulty of medical treatment. As its name indicates, MRSA is a “super bug” that is resistant to treatment with methicillin, a penicillin-related antibiotic, as well as many other antibiotics that are commonly used to treat staph infections.
Workers’ Compensation for MRSA and Staph Infections in NC
A MRSA infection is not like a cold or flu that resolves on its own in a matter of days. While some people have an easier time than others fighting off the infection, many people who become infected with MRSA require very aggressive treatment, which may include a course of antibiotics in addition to drainage of any sores, boils, or abscesses which have developed. Only licensed healthcare professionals should attempt to drain MRSA-related boils and sores. Because MRSA is resistant to various antibiotics, it is generally necessary for the infected person to undergo lab testing to determine which antibiotics would be most effective.
In severe cases, MRSA can be so physically debilitating that it becomes a disability. For example, MRSA can lead to effects such as:
- Peeling Skin
- Pus-Filled Abscesses
- Serious Complications
- Cellulitis (Skin Infection)
- MRSA Pneumonia
- Organ Failure
- Osteomyelitis (Bone Infection)
- Pharyngitis (Throat Infection)
- Septicemia (Blood Poisoning)
- Sinusitis (Sinus Infection)
- Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
These effects can persist for weeks or months while the infected person battles the infection – a process that is as physically draining as it is expensive. A person living with severe MRSA is generally unable to work, but still has medical bills for treatment, in addition to expenses like rent or mortgage payments, utility bills, groceries, and other necessities.
What Can You Do if You Contract an Infection or MRSA at Work in North Carolina?
Workers’ compensation can alleviate the financial hardship caused by a disabling work-related infection by providing you with disability payments, which are generally made on a weekly basis. The payments you get from workers’ compensation, which most employers are required to carry under state law, can continue for as long as 500 weeks (about 9.5 years), depending on the nature and severity of your infection-related disability. Payments generally continue until:
- You return to work.
- Your employer proves that you are no longer disabled.
In most cases, workers who are injured, sickened, or infected at work will pursue financial compensation under North Carolina’s workers’ compensation system. However, there are some cases in which an injured worker may have a cause of action to sue an employer for injury. While laws usually prevent MRSA-infected hospital workers from suing their employers for compensation, exceptions apply in cases where injuries or infections are caused deliberately, or occur due to an employer’s extreme and egregious misconduct. Furthermore, medical workers who develop MRSA due to defective medical devices may be able to sue product manufacturers for compensation. Lawsuits based on defective products are known as “product liability” lawsuits.
Charlotte Workplace Infection Attorneys for Healthcare and Hospital Workers
If you, your spouse, your adult child, or another family member developed MRSA while working at a hospital, clinic, gym, retirement home, or any other type of work environment, your family will need guidance from a skilled workers’ compensation lawyer who knows how to handle complex MRSA claims effectively. Employers and insurers frequently try to deny claims by refuting assertions that infections occurred in the workplace. In other cases, claims are approved, but administrative errors cause lengthy delays in benefits.
At the Ramsay Law Firm, we are proud to represent doctors, nurses, and others who develop infections or illnesses due to workplace exposure. We bring more than 20 years of experience to each claim we handle, and are prepared to work with a team of medical experts to help prove that you were infected at your workplace. When you are represented by the Ramsay Law Firm, you will have a compassionate but aggressive advocate fighting in your family’s corner.
To learn more about getting workers’ compensation for MRSA or other workplace infections, call the Ramsay Law Firm at (704) 376-1616 for a free legal consultation about workers’ comp in Charlotte, North Carolina. We will keep your information confidential.