Right now, New Jersey workers compensation does allow for claims related to the Covid-19 virus. There’s just one problem.
In most cases, employers and their insurance companies don’t have to pay the claim if you can’t prove there was a direct line from your job to your infection. Because Covid-19 is so ubiquitous, and capable of spreading through asymptomatic carriers, this can be very difficult.
Currently, many essential workers are having to turn to other New Jersey programs liked paid sick leave to try to bridge the gap. For some, this aid will be enough. For others it won’t, especially if the infection lands them in the hospital.
Many essential workers are uninsured, which means Covid-19 could cost them up to $75,000. Going to the ICU or being put on a ventilator is extremely expensive.
In fact, if your symptoms aren’t severe it’s usually best to just isolate at home, drink lots of water, and wait it out, or to use telehealth or other, less expensive services than the ER if you’re not sure.
Nevertheless, workers compensation was created to help pay for worker medical bills when their jobs expose them to a hazard.
Public safety workers like fire fighters, EMTs, nurses, and medical technicians are protected by a presumption that if they contract Covid-19 in the middle of a pandemic while responding to the pandemic then that relationship exists. They’re entitled to workers compensation benefits without having to offer any other proof that the infection came from their work on the ground.
Essential workers like grocery store clerks, pharmacists, and other workers on the essential business list still have to go to work and risk exposing themselves to the virus. Yet they are unlikely to receive workers compensation for contracting the virus at this time.
Law makers are working to change this. The New Jersey State AFL-CIO has called on the Governor and the State Legislature to amend the law, removing the burden of proof requirement in place of the presumption of infection at the workplace. State Senate President Stephen Sweeny has backed the bill.
Here at Talone Law we’ll keep a close eye on the situation and keep you updated in the event that the laws become friendlier to our state’s pool of essential workers.
In the meantime, if you need help with a worker’s compensation claim, we continue to be here for you.