The COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than half a million cases of the virus in New Jersey alone, as of this writing. Healthcare workers are on the frontlines of fighting the virus and at a high risk of contracting the virus. Who is responsible for compensation due to COVID-19 for healthcare workers? In New Jersey, healthcare workers are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits to cover medical expenses, lost wages and other benefits. And -- in a change to typical workers’ compensation claims -- New Jersey healthcare workers do not have to prove where or how he or she specifically contracted COVID-19.
Compensation for Healthcare Workers with COVID-19 in New Jersey
Workers’ compensation provides several benefits to injured workers. For instance, you may come to find that you're unable to immediately return to work. The loss of income coupled with the medical bills will affect your finances and you may be eligible to recover those damages through workers' compensation and other claims.
Workers compensation covers medical benefits, such as payment of hospital and medical bills, as well as the loss of income during any period in which an employee is disabled. In cases of severe illness, these benefits may be temporary or permanent and may include a full benefit amount or a partial benefit amount.
What Makes COVID-19 Different for Workers Compensation Claims in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy signed a law regarding workers' compensation for healthcare workers with COVID-19 on September 14, 2020, which is retroactive to March 9, 2020. This law states that essential workers in New Jersey are eligible for workers' compensation benefits and does not require the employee to prove that the virus was directly connected to the workplace. Rather, the new law presumes the essential employee’s COVID-19 illness is related to work. The employer would need to prove, with a preponderance of evidence, that the employee did not contract the virus at work.
What’s the Definition of Essential Worker in New Jersey?
Most healthcare workers would be considered essential workers under the New Jersey law. Specifically, the law states that “an employee in the public or private sector who during a state of emergency”:
- is a public safety worker or first responder, including any fire, police or other emergency responders;
- is involved in providing medical and other healthcare services, emergency transportation, social services, and other care services, including services provided in health care facilities, residential facilities, or homes;
- performs functions which involve physical proximity to members of the public and are essential to the public’s health, safety, and welfare, including transportation services, hotel and other residential services, financial services, and the production, preparation, storage, sale, and distribution of essential goods such as food, beverages, medicine, fuel, and supplies for conducting essential business and work at home; or
- is any other employee deemed an essential employee by the public authority declaring the state of emergency.
When Workers Compensation Isn’t Enough
For many New Jersey healthcare employees who were sick with COVID-19, this New Jersey law could help them recover lost wages, medical bills, and other expenses. In cases of serious illness or long-term disability consulting with an experienced workers compensation attorney is in your best interest.
At Brandon J Broderick, Attorney at Law, we understand the hardships work-related serious illness can cause in your life. One of our trusted team members will listen to your story, learn about your case, and can advise you next steps. Many of our clients feel a sense of relief once they make that first phone call. Get in touch today or call us at 201-514-6351 for a free consultation.