What You Need To Know If You Or A Loved One Contracted COVID-19 At Work?
When I wake up in the morning, for a split second, I think that the public health emergency we are living through was just a nightmare, conjured up by a B-rated thriller. It does not take more than a moment for reality to set in: that we are living through a pandemic which threatens the health of billions of people throughout the world, and has brought America’s roaring economy to a standstill.
In addition to posing a health threat, Covid-19 has deprived many citizens of their ability to earn a living. The federal government has stepped in to provide relief to both individuals and businesses, but even the strongest economy in the world cannot financially support 330 million people for long. The sheer number of citizens applying for unemployment and state temporary disability benefits has overwhelmed the New Jersey Department of Labor. For that reason, we should all be evaluating the possibility of tapping into other potential sources of support to get us through this crisis.
If you or a loved one were exposed to the coronavirus and contracted it at work, you may be entitled to receive benefits through a workers’ compensation insurance carrier. A few months ago, I wrote an article on the “Thomas P. Canzanella 21st Century First Responders Protection Act,” which was signed into law in New Jersey less than one year ago. This legislation will prove to be an invaluable tool for protecting our nurses, doctors, EMTs, police officers, and other first responders during this pandemic. The Act provides that if a first responder contracts a communicable disease, there is a rebuttable presumption that the exposure occurred at work, and must therefore be covered by workers’ compensation.
Any first responder diagnosed with Covid-19 is entitled to receive coverage through workers’ compensation insurance for 100% of their medical bills, with no deductible or co-payment. The insurance carrier is also responsible for paying temporary disability (lost wage) benefits representing 70% of the employee’s average weekly wage, up to the State maximum, which is now $945 per week. Additionally, if the employee suffers any long-term health effects from the virus, he would be entitled to receive an award of permanent disability benefits. If the first responder succumbs to the illness, his dependents would be entitled to receive benefits of up to $945/week.
If you are not a first responder but believe that you contracted the virus at work, you may still file a compensation claim. However, you would need to present evidence within a reasonable medical probability that “but for” your exposure to the virus at the workplace, you would not have gotten sick. I suggest that you write down the names of any co-workers who tested positive for the virus and document the times you came into contact with those co-workers before your memory fades.
Nurses, doctors, hospital workers, EMTs, and police officers all deserve our thanks for being on the front lines of fighting this invisible enemy. Our firm therefore pledges to provide free legal advice and services to any public safety worker concerning workers’ compensation benefits for Covid-19. If you or a loved one needs our assistance, please reach out. We are here for you. Even if we cannot help you ourselves, we promise to do everything in our power to point you in the right direction.
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