COVID 19 and Workers' Compensation claims
Under N.J.S.A. §34:15-31.5 (the “Thomas P. Canzanella Twenty First Century First Responders Protection Act”), a “public safety worker” enjoys a rebuttable presumption that any serious disease or related illness following an on-the-job exposure to a pathogen was caused by that exposure. Expanding on this principle, the New Jersey Senate passed Bill S2380 on May 14, 2020. The Bill is now pending in the New Jersey Assembly, Bill A3999. The Bill creates a presumption that an “essential worker” who files a claim under COVID 19 is presumed to be work related. An “essential worker” is defined as an employee essential in support of a State or Federally declared statewide emergency and recovery operations or an employee in the public or private section whose responsibilities are essential to public health, safety and welfare. Thus, a Petitioner already has established a prima facie case as soon as a claim is filed. It is up to the employer to rebut this prima facie presumption by preponderance of evidence that the worker was not exposed to the disease at work.
The best defense is to accumulate the facts and investigate at the onset of a claim. It is critical to obtain the necessary information as soon as a claim is made. We can assist you to best prepare to handle defense of workers compensation claims arising from COVID 19. Please contact us so that we may guide you with “best practices” during claim intake.
We will further keep you appraised of upcoming legislation which may affect the handling of COVID 19 claims.