Can You Receive Workers’ Compensation for Getting Coronavirus at Work?
New COVID-19 cases in New Jersey are still averaging over 3,000 per day. Those who believe that they have contracted the virus at work may be eligible for workers’ compensation as long as they can prove that they were exposed at work.
The System Is Still Working to Process Claims
While the workers’ compensation courts in New Jersey are physically closed right now due to COVID-19, it does not mean that the system has ground to a halt. Judges are continuing to be assigned, and they are working on matters from their homes. They can use telephone and video conferencing, and they have been encouraged to do as much work as possible during this time. They can even still issue rulings right now, so the system is still working.
If you have a COVID-19-related workers’ compensation claim, you can still file it right now. You do not have to wait for the stay-at-home order to be lifted. In fact, you should still file it as soon as possible in order to get the process started.
Were You Exposed on the Job?
The ordinary consideration in a workers’ compensation case is whether the employee was injured on the job. In most cases, it is very clear where the injury occurred. Thus, it is very easy to prove, and this does not prove to be a barrier to the injured employee receiving compensation.
With COVID-19, there are some concerns as to whether the employee can prove that he or she contracted the virus while on the job. First, someone who gets the virus while at work could generally qualify for a work-related injury if it was due to occupational exposure. However, demonstrating causation is very difficult when dealing with a highly contagious virus that has spread everywhere in society. In other words, you may have an issue showing that you were exposed to coronavirus at work as opposed to anywhere else even with the amount of contact tracing that is now available.
Assumptions About and Duties of Safety Workers
First, there is a presumption in New Jersey that certain public safety officers have been exposed to a virus on the job when they are sickened. This covers occupations such as police officers and paramedics. However, other employees in New Jersey may be out of luck if they believe that they have contracted COVID-19 at work but cannot prove it to the satisfaction of the administrative judge.
In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy has issued several executive orders that have designated certain employees as essential, forcing them to remain on the job and exposing them to the potential that they could contract COVID-19. However, at this time, there is no COVID-19 presumption for these essential workers that would pave the way for them to receive workers’ compensation easier. This includes people such as grocery workers and people who work at pharmacies and restaurants. They will still need to prove causation—namely, that they were injured at work.
How Sick Workers Can Get Help
There may be some possible help for these employees in the future in the form of legislation. The New Jersey legislature is considering a bill that extends the current COVID-19 presumption about public safety workers. Many other states have done this by executive order or by statute, and it is likely that New Jersey will not be that far behind.
Nonetheless, it is still possible to show that an employee was exposed to the pandemic while at work, making it likely that he or she is eligible to receive workers’ compensation. However, without a legislative change, an employee will need to actually bring the proof. It could delay his or her claim or introduce some risk that it would not be approved. However, workers should stay apprised of developments in the law so that they can rapidly file their claim once the law has been changed. The bill has been introduced, and a workers’ comp lawyer can let you know when it has passed.
If you need a workers’ comp lawyer, contact the attorneys at the Voorhees Law Office, LLC in Somerville, NJ, at (908) 200-2297 to learn more about how you would go about filing a claim and to schedule your initial consultation.