Alabama Attorney General Says Vaccination Side Effects are Covered by Workers’ Compensation
At least, that was the opinion of the Alabama AG on February 3, 2003. A few months prior to that, President Bush announced the National Smallpox Vaccination Program, a smallpox vaccination plan that would, in phases, vaccinate a significant number of Americans against a potential release (via act of terrorism) of smallpox into the population. Since it was anticipated that there would be side effects associated with the vaccinations, the Director of the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations (now Department of Labor) asked the AG for an opinion on whether the side effects would be covered as compensable per the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act. In his opinion letter, the AG conceded that there were no Alabama cases on point. The AG looked at how the courts of other states had handled the issue and ultimately concluded that Alabama courts would find the side effects to be compensable. Of course, the AG’s opinion is not law. It is just an opinion and, just like lawyers, everybody has one.
So how would an Alabama Circuit Court Judge handle this issue? Certainly, everyone (sans antivaxxers) has an interest in being vaccinated. While employers see the benefit of an immune work force that is less susceptible to sickness or death, they also see the same benefit with employees that are healthier due to nutritious eating, regular exercise, or simply taking their Flintstone vitamins every morning.
Whether or not the side effects associated with the vaccine would be considered compensable will probably come down to whether an employer requires or encourages its employees to be vaccinated. On the flipside, employers will defend against such claims by trying to establish that the employee took the vaccine for reasons unrelated to work. Courts will most likely focus on the type of employment, when and where the vaccine was administered, who paid for it, whether incentives or bonuses were offered as inducements, and whether the employee would have taken the vaccine anyway.
As with the 2003 AG letter, this is just an opinion and you know what they say about those.
About the Author
This blog submission was prepared by Mike Fish, an attorney with Fish Nelson & Holden, LLC, a law firm dedicated to representing self-insured employers, insurance carriers, and third party administrators in all matters related to workers’ compensation. Fish Nelson & Holden is a member of the National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network. If you have any questions about this submission or Alabama workers’ compensation in general, please contact Fish by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling him directly at 205-332-1448.