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Zika at Work: Can Your Employer Be Held Liable?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016By Richard Alexander

With the Zika virus on the rise, some people are wondering about whether they can sue their employers if they contract the virus on the job. Although most adults recover fairly quickly from Zika, the virus can cause horrible birth defects if transmitted to an unborn fetus from an infected mother.

The virus is acquired in at least three ways: being bitten by a carrier mosquito; having sex with someone who has been infected; or, in the case of an unborn fetus, exposure from an infected mother’s body. The Centers for Disease Control suspects that Zika could also be transmitted by infected blood during a transfusion.

So far, Californians have not been infected by Zika-transmitting mosquito bites occurring in the Golden State. Although 362 people have become infected by Zika, nearly all of those were related to out-of-state (or country) travel. Only three people were infected by sexual transmission.

Adults infected with the Zika virus can suffer symptoms that may last as long as a week. These symptoms include joint and muscle pain, fever, and a headache. Other symptoms include a rash and red eyes.

Over 40 California women have been infected by Zika, and two infants have been born with birth defects as the result of infection. The Zika virus can lead to microcephaly, “a condition where a baby’s head is much smaller than expected.” This condition can also cause a baby’s brain to not develop fully. Many other problems often result from microcephaly, such as seizures; developmental delays; hearing, vision, and feeding problems; and intellectual disabilities. Babies born with these horrible defects can require lifetime care, seriously impacting them, their families, and their caregivers in ways most of us cannot imagine.

For an employer to be liable for the consequences of an employee having contracted Zika, the employee would need to be able to prove that the disease was contracted on the job. For example, an employee bitten while traveling on business to Florida, where there have been over 1,100 cases of Zika so far this year, might have a case against his or her employer. A major issue in such a lawsuit would be whether the employee’s recovery was limited to the workers’ compensation system.

A potentially much more significant case would arise if the exposed employee’s baby suffered from Zika-related birth defects. Pursuing this type of case would require the assistance of attorneys with extensive experience in birth defect cases.

The San Francisco personal injury attorneys at Alexander Law Group, LLP will work with you to procure all possible monetary compensation after birth defects due to chemical or virus exposure. Our goal is to help our clients receive proper compensation for their pain and suffering. You can reach one of our San Francisco personal injury attorneys at 888.777.1776. Alternatively, you can use our online contact form and we will get back to you promptly.

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