The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic might have paused many aspects of life, but it does not prevent the occurrence of workplace accidents and injuries. Essential workers in New Jersey are still just as exposed to workplace hazards such as slip and falls and transportation accidents as they were before. In fact, the number of workers’ comp claims in New Jersey has escalated due to coronavirus-related cases. If you need to file a workers’ compensation claim during this uncertain time, find out how the virus might affect the legal process.
In New Jersey, the standard statute of limitations on a workers’ compensation case is two years from the date of the injury. So far, the state has not changed this deadline in connection to the coronavirus. You will still need to file your workers’ compensation claim within two years. You can submit your claim electronically with assistance from an attorney. Note that the municipal courts in New Jersey are suspending in-person claims filing until further notice. If you wish to bring a workers’ compensation claim during the COVID-19 pandemic, therefore, you will need to do so electronically.
If you wish to file a personal injury lawsuit against an at-fault party for your work-related injury instead of a workers’ compensation claim, you may qualify for the six-week extension announced by the Supreme Court of New Jersey. On March 17, 2020, the Supreme Court of New Jersey approved the tolling of deadlines on most civil matters, including personal injury claims. The courts have tolled the deadline through April 26, 2020, as of the latest update. The Courts’ COVID-19 alterations may give you an extra six weeks to bring a personal injury or wrongful death suit in New Jersey.
Once you file your workers’ compensation claim, expect the rest of the legal process to take place virtually as well. Most workers’ compensation attorneys are still operating at full or partial capacity, but they are altering their services to provide them 100% virtually. You may have to text, email, call or videoconference with your lawyer instead of meeting in person. The state has also suspended all in-person hearings until further notice. It might be possible to reach a settlement through virtual mediation instead. If your workers’ comp case requires a trial by jury, however, you may have to wait until the resumption of standard court procedures.
If you wish to file a claim specifically for the coronavirus making you or a loved one sick, you or your Monmouth County workers’ compensation lawyer will need to prove that the illness arose out of occupational tasks or duties. You must be able to prove that you contracted the coronavirus out of or in the scope of your employment. This might be easiest to prove in an environment that keeps careful track of COVID-19 cases, such as a hospital. Patient charts and databases could help you show that you contracted the virus while at work or performing job-related tasks.
As a worker in a different industry, it could be more difficult to establish where you contracted the virus. The burden is to prove that you more likely than not contracted the coronavirus in the scope of your employment. A lawyer may be able to help you meet this burden of proof through evidence such as medical records, eyewitness testimonies and pathological experts. New Jersey’s workers’ compensation laws may make this difficult to prove, however.
If your attorney can prove your eligibility, you could receive benefits through New Jersey’s workers’ compensation system for your past and future medical bills and two-thirds lost wages related to the coronavirus. You may also qualify for death benefits if your loved one passed away from COVID-19 contracted on the job. The compensation you and your family receive through a workers’ comp claim could help you get through this difficult time.