We are concerned about our clients and the public at large during the Coronavirus Outbreak. One of the issues that has concerned me particularly is the number of workers that will get sick due to exposure from working at their job. I have already been contacted by workers who have contracted the Coronavirus. People may ask “what if I get Coronavirus from my job?” The answer is that New Jersey worker’s compensation cases are claims that injured and sick workers should bring due to the Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) if they get it while working and they get seriously ill. We know that some professions are particularly vulnerable to exposure, such as our brave members of law enforcement, fire departments and EMS workers. In addition to these first responders, doctors, nurses and all medical personnel in New Jersey are perhaps at even higher risk of infection due to their working under these conditions. We not only recognize your sacrifice – but we will represent you or your family member if they get sick from their workplace. It appears that most otherwise healthy people will make full recoveries from this scary disease. If so, the worker and his or her family will be relieved and they will not have a worker’s compensation case that would yield the worker permanency benefits. They still would be entitled to medical treatment and temporary pay though, which the employer’s worker’s compensation carrier would have to pay for. However, we know that this terrible disease will kill some New Jersey workers who get sick. Their families should certainly bring worker’s compensation cases. It would need to be proven that the worker contracted the virus from his/her workplace. That may not be so difficult in that certain professions on the front lines are showing massive amounts of infections in the Tri-State area. For instance, as of April 2nd, more than 1,400 New York City Police Officers have the Coronavirus. I fear that similar rates of infection will hit police in Hudson, Essex and Bergen Counties in New Jersey. Of course, our New Jersey nurses, doctors and hospital personnel are also getting sick and infected at alarming rates.
Also, warehouse workers are at risk. Supermarket workers are getting infected as they are in contact with many people in somewhat confined spaces. New Jersey workers at our airports are also at risk of getting Coronavirus. These workers may also bring claims. Again, if you get the virus, but make a full recovery, that will be celebrated, but many will not make full recoveries and have lasting permanent injuries. Sadly some workers will die.
We also know that some New Jersey workers that get sick, will recover, but will suffer some permanent limitations to their lungs. Bloomberg.com published a story on April 3rd that discussed this issue in that previously healthy people who ultimately recover, but who had to be placed on ventilators will also likely suffer some permanent impairment to their lungs. According to Ross McKinney, of the American Medical Association, “Many will end up with damaged lungs and thereafter may be constrained in the future.” If these people were exposed while working, then they should make sure they pursue their New Jersey worker’s compensation rights and remedies.
I truly hope to not have to handle many of these cases. Please keep yourself and your family safe. If you can work remotely, do it. If you are an essential worker, use safety equipment, masks and gloves. If your employer will not permit you to use them or if they don’t supply them, contact your union representative or local elected officials and ask them to get involved. If you get sick due to exposure at work, contact us. We are here to help. Workers never pay their lawyer in New Jersey on a worker’s compensation case unless they win the case. Even if you don’t hire us, but have questions, we are here to listen and offer advice. John Burke, Esq.
John M. Burke, Esq.
Koles & Burke, LLP
2600 Kennedy Boulevard, Suite 1K
Jersey City, NJ 07306