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Exposure to Coronavirus Creates Work Illness Presumption for Essential Worker’s Compensation Claims

Jul 13, 2020

Pennsauken, NJ (Law Firm Newswire) July 13, 2020 – New Jersey Worker’s Compensation Act requires all New Jersey employers to have employment insurance that specifically covers employees when they suffer a work-related illness or injury. When an employer suffers a work-related illness, they must notify their employer immediately or soon thereafter. Employers have the option to have self-insurance or workers’ compensation coverage. Depending on the type of insurance, the employer must notify the insurance provider or take the next steps under the self-insurance process.

An employer with coverage under a worker’s compensation insurance policy submits the employee claim to the insurance provider for review and decision on the claim. Under self-insurance coverage, the employer has the option to handle the claim themselves or contract a third-party administrator to oversee the issue. Under either insurance option, if the claim is denied or the employee otherwise disagrees with the determination, the employee can file a worker’s compensation claim with the New Jersey Division of Workers’ Compensation.

In mid-January 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case of the COVID-19 in the United States. On March 21, 2020, the New Jersey governor put an order in place to for residents to stay home and non-essential business to close. The near-lockdown was an effort to combat COVID-19 and prevent residents from exposure to or spreading of the disease. However, the order allowed essential businesses to continue operation with staff at reduced or minimal level, if necessary.

The essential businesses are broken down into two categories — essential retail business and essential non-retail business. Some businesses are considered essential because they provide products or services that assist or are necessary for the health, welfare, and safety of the public. Essential retail businesses include:

* Gas stations
* Grocery Stores
* Banks
* Laundromats and dry cleaners
* Pharmacies
* Mail and delivery services
* Mobile phone services

The essential non-retail businesses are industries, such as:

* Law firms
* Accounting firms
* Police, fire, medical emergency services
* Construction workers
* Lab research
* Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare employees
* Utility workers

For an employee to receive approval for their workers’ compensation claim, they must prove that their illness arose out of and in the course of employment. This may be difficult to do with a COVID-19 diagnosis. Exposure to COVID-19 can occur from interactions with other people wherever the employee may go.

In April 2020, State Senate President Stephen Sweeney introduced a bill to address concerns regarding the qualifications of workers’ compensation claims of essential workers who contract the coronavirus. Employees who work in healthcare, emergency response and essential retail are face-to-face with high volumes of people are a daily basis. The same employees may interact with the public when they are away from work. It is easy to deny their workers’ compensation claims by saying they could have gotten the disease when they were not in the course of their employment. Under the proposed bill, the essential workers do not have to prove they contracted COVID-19 at work. The presumption is that essential workers who develop the coronavirus got it from their workplaces

When New Jersey law states that an employee’s illness must arise out of the employment, it means that risk of contracting that illness is foreseeable based on the type of employment. The nature and risk of the coronavirus is such that a reasonable person would contemplate it being connected to their job. Therefore, the bill removes that need for employees to prove they contracted the illness at work. The presumption and proof are met by being an essential worker.

The law firm of Petrillo & Goldberg has assembled a compassionate team of attorneys who have dedicated their career to ensuring that New Jersey work injury victims recover the compensation they deserve. The work injury lawyers at Petrillo & Goldberg deal with the insurance companies so employees can focus on recovering, returning to work and moving forward with their life. To learn more, visit https://www.petrilloandgoldberg.com, or call,856-249-9288 to schedule a free consultation.

Petrillo & Goldberg Law

6951 North Park Drive
Pennsauken, NJ 08109

19 South 21st Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

70 South Broad Street
Woodbury, NJ 08096

Phone: 856-486-4343
Fax: 856:486-7979

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