NJ Public Safety Workers' Eligible for Workers' Comp for COVID-19

By: Samuel M. Gaylord

Police officers, first responders and public safety workers are covered by New Jersey Workers’ Compensation if exposed to and affected by COVID-19. The New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act provides benefits for injuries
“arising out of and in the course of one’s employment”. The New Jersey Supreme Court in Coleman v. Cycle Transformer Corp., 105 N.J. 285 (1986) describes the level of risk associated with the job; particularly what “type of risk” can an officer assume and still be covered under the Workers’ Compensation Act.

  1. Risks distinctly associated with the job, which resulted in injury, are compensable.
  2. Risks that are neutral, which would not have occurred but for the employee’s connection to the location of an injury was deemed compensable.
  3. Risks that are “purely personal” are not associated with the job but could just as well occurred anywhere and at any time are deemed not compensable.

New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Benefits
New Jersey Workers’ Compensation provides three very specific benefits for an injured worker. An injured worker is entitled to receive:

  1. Medical Treatment
  2. Temporary Disability
  3. A Permanent Disability Award

Specifically, New Jersey Workers’ Compensation provides medical care, which is furnished and paid for by the workers’ comp insurance carrier. This includes
everything from Advil to an ACL reconstruction. Temporary disability benefits are paid if A) the authorized treating physician indicates that additional
medical treatment is necessary and B) an individual must be out of work. If a medical professional indicates that the individual can perform light duty, the question then becomes whether the employer can provide light duty that meets the restrictions set forth by the authorized treating physician. If not, the person
continues to receive the temporary disability benefit which is 70% of the gross weekly wage or full wage by way of contract. Finally, an individual who sustains an injury while working also receives an Award for that injury.

2019 Protection Act
In July 2019, the Thomas P. Canzanella Protection Act was signed into legislation. This protects all public safety workers for injuries with many causes, including “epidemics”. This particular legislation was designed to ensure that officers and first responders are provided with coverage and a level of protection equal to the sacrifice they make for the safety and well-being of other citizens of the State of New Jersey and the nation. What this means is that if an individual officer, first responder or a public safety worker were infected by COVID-19, a serious communicable disease, they would be covered under the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act.

Bottom line, if a public safety worker were to contract this virus there is a presumption that any injury or disability or chronic illness or death attributed to
the COVID-19 virus would, in fact, be compensable and covered by New Jersey Workers’ Compensation; meaning the employer would have the responsibility to
refute the presumption by way of medical proof which given the current state of affairs would prove to be difficult if not, impossible.

If you have any additional questions do not hesitate to call (609) 771-8611 or email Sam Gaylord at sgaylord@szaferman.com.

Sam Gaylord focuses his practice on workers’ compensation, Social Security Disability, and disability pension appeals. He is certified as a Workers’ Compensation Attorney by the Supreme Court of New Jersey and is licensed to practice in New Jersey as well as Pennsylvania.