The pandemic has changed a lot of day-to-day life for people all across the country. It has also changed the way that every Camden County workers’ compensation attorney has had to think about what it means for essential workers to get injured at work while keeping the country running. Under the old rules, proving whether a COVID-19 diagnosis was related to work fell on the worker, making it difficult for many to receive the benefits they were entitled to under the CARES and NJ Workers’ Compensation Acts. However, new legislation has recently changed the criteria, making it far easier for frontline workers to receive the care they’re entitled to.
How Has SB 2380 Changed Eligibility?
Under the usual rules that govern workers’ compensation claims in New Jersey, it’s often the worker’s responsibility to prove that he or she was injured or fell ill as a result of work. Under these rules, many of the individuals working on the frontlines of the pandemic and who frequently interact with the public had to show that they contracted COVID-19 while on the job if they fell ill. This requirement is difficult since the pandemic makes it possible for anyone to contract COVID-19 while participating in non-work related activities.
However, under Senate Bill (SB) 2380, the responsibility has shifted from the worker to the employer to prove that the workers’ COVID-19 exposure did not result from their work duties because the law presumes the worker contracted the virus while working. As a consequence of this shift in the burden of proof, many more workers will become eligible for workers’ compensation if they contract COVID-19.
What Makes a Worker “Essential?”
An essential worker who is eligible for benefits under the new law can fall into a few different categories:
These categories involve various individuals, from doctors to truck drivers, cashiers to child care workers, and pharmacy employees to grocery store workers. If a person is required to leave home during the pandemic because of work, he or she may be eligible for benefits.
Does the Law Apply Only to Future Exposures?
While most laws that get enacted are for future occurrences, this law affects all COVID-19 exposure cases stretching back to March 9, 2020. This means that any pending workers’ compensation cases related to essential workers who contracted COVID-19 must presume that the exposure happened while at work, rather than require the worker to establish the connection.
To find out more about the new law or schedule a consultation with a South Jersey workers’ compensation law firm, contact us now!