Weirton Firefighter fights for life from COVID-19 infection, insurance refuses to open claim

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BROOKE COUNTY, W.VA (WTRF) — A Weirton Firefighter is on a ventilator fighting for his life after contracting COVID-19 on December 17th.

Now, the family and the city are fighting for him to get the compensation they believe he deserves.

50-year-old Lieutenant Brian Ritchie has been a firefighter for Weirton Fire Department for 13 years. As a firefighter, it is virtually impossible to socially distance while on duty.

Attorney Teresa Toriseva says Lieutenant Ritchie’s entire shift tested positive for COVID-19, and so did most of the opposite shift.

Toriseva says the city did their part by reporting the occupational exposure to Encova, the Worker’s comp insurance agency, but Encova is refusing to open a claim. She says it’s extremely important they cover his lost wages and medical bills in a situation like this, because if not them… who?

He couldn’t avoid COVID at work. It is what it is for firefighters. And when they’re harmed from an occupational disease, they should be covered, wages, medical bills. That’s what the system is designed to do. It’s failing here. And we believe it’s failing because Encova, formerly Brickstreet, the workers comp insurance company, is not complying with the law.

TERESA TORISEVA– ATTORNEY, TORISEVA LAW

Toriseva’s hope now is the judge forces the insurance commissioner to open a claim to AT LEAST consider if he contracted COVID-19 as a result of occupational exposure.

We have reached out to Encova but have yet to hear back.

We will of course keep you updated.

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