The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed the way we live and work. Many individuals have questions regarding the transmission of the disease and what happens if they are infected at work or injured while working remotely. Health care professionals, first responders, restaurant workers, grocery store employees, gas station attendants, and public transportation employees are just some of the people that are most exposed to COVID-19 at their jobs. Likewise, there are thousands of workers in New Jersey now working remotely due to the restrictions of Governor Phil Murphy’s Executive Order 107, requiring employees to work from home whenever possible to slow the transmission of the virus.
The New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act covers individuals who can prove that they were infected by COVID-19 while at work. N.J.S.A. 34:15-31 defines a compensable occupational disease to include all diseases arising out of and in the course of employment, which are due in material degree to causes and conditions characteristic of a particular trade, occupation, or place of employment. Moreover, Governor Murphy recently signed into law the Thomas P. Canzanella Twenty First Century First Responders Protection Act. This law protects first responders and their families, giving them a legally effective remedy for cancer and other occupational diseases.
Claims Involving COVID-19
The main challenge in handling a claim for occupational exposures that resulted in the transmission of COVID-19 is being able to prove that the virus was transmitted due to work-related exposure as opposed to an outside of work community-based exposure. Moreover, to obtain permanent disability benefits under New Jersey law, an individual would have to demonstrate not only that they contracted COVID-19 at work, but that they were left with a permanent functional loss. That can be difficult if the employee ultimately tests negative at the conclusion of medical treatment with no objective medical proof of a permanent condition that restricts their ability to work or their life outside of work.
Our new “normal” has also created a situation where thousands of New Jersey employees are working remotely from home. What happens if you are injured at home while working remotely? Do you have a claim under the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act? The answer is “probably.” There are limited cases that address what happens when an individual is injured while working remotely from home; however, there is no question that if an employee can prove that he or she sustained an injury that arose out of and in the course of their employment that they would be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Certainly, a teacher who is conducting a class via Zoom who trips and falls over a computer power cord sustaining an injury to her knee would have a viable claim for workers’ compensation benefits. There is no question that these cases will all be handled on a case-by-case basis.
Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks, LLP Advocate for Workers Injured due to the Coronavirus Pandemic
If you were injured in an accident while working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact the Cherry Hill workers’ compensation lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks, LLP to review the specific facts of your case. Call us at 856-761-3773 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Camden, Cinnaminson, Delran, Maple Shade, and Pennsauken.