Do Workers’ Compensation Benefits Cover Infectious Disease?

Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Infectious Disease?

If you suffer an injury at work, what to do next may be obvious if you’re familiar with the basics of workers’ compensation law and filing procedures. But what happens if you catch a contagious disease at work?


What happens if you contract pneumonia while at work, for example, and you’re not able to return to work for several weeks while you recover?


While it’s important to note that not all infectious diseases are compensable under New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Law, diseases that are contracted while working under conditions unique to your job duties or work environment have the potential to earn you compensation for medical bills or lost wages. In the event that an infectious disease is so severe that it leads to the infected employee’s death, their surviving spouse or family members may be entitled to benefits for medical and funeral expenses paid out by the employer’s insurance carrier.


What Types of Infections Are Considered Employment-Related?

New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development, like those of many other states, define infectious or contagious diseases as being compensable under workers’ comp law if the employee filing the claim had a greater chance of contracting the disease at their job than they would while among the general public. Under this definition, catching a cold or the flu, which are very common diseases that most of the general population can contract anywhere, would not be compensable under workers’ comp law.


However, there are certain work environments, factors and job duties that pose the risk of employees contracting certain types of infectious diseases while on the job, more so than the general public would be at risk of contracting.


As a prime example, health care workers are especially vulnerable to a slew of contagions and infections that can carry serious or fatal health risks from even the slightest amount of exposure. A nurse accidentally stuck with a needle that was used on a patient known to have HIV, or that contracts MRSA while treating patients infected with it, can earn workers’ comp benefits by claiming they were at a particularly high risk of those infections due to the nature of their work.


Since these types of infections are quite common in hospitals but not readily spread among the general public, these healthcare workers are likely to receive workers’ comp since these illnesses were contracted while on the job, and working at the hospital or rehab center gave them a peculiarly high risk of exposure and contraction compared to the level of exposure and spread among the general public.


Other types of infectious diseases that can be caught on the job include rare fevers, tuberculosis, asbestosis, and even cancer, depending on the conditions in which a claimant works and the type of work expected of their job position. As another example, a salesperson who is sent abroad to an Asian country where they contract typhoid or a rare type of flu may be able to file a workers’ comp claim.


Since foreigners are at an especially high risk of contracting a disease that the locals in these countries have most likely built an immunity to, and since the salesperson attended a foreign country as part of a work assignment and as a result, was exposed to the chance of catching an infectious disease on the job more so than they would have been exposed elsewhere, they have a good chance of collecting workers’ compensation for lost wages and medical bills.


In the case that exposure to an infectious disease causes you to miss work in order to seek treatment, such as for blood testing, you may be entitled to temporary disability compensation to cover your medical costs and wages lost from missing work. If you’re infected with a disease that causes lifelong issues or the permanent malfunction of a certain bodily system, your employer may be required to pay you permanent disability and medical monitoring.


What Happens if You Catch a Disease from a Coworker?

Workplaces are breeding grounds for contagious diseases. With a large number of people working within close proximity of one another in the same building or room, it’s common for one sick person to come into the office and spread their germs among their coworkers.


However, there are certain situations where catching an infectious disease at your workplace could earn you workers’ comp benefits. The hard part is proving that your circumstances entitle you to these benefits.


Unlike being hurt on the job, where one specific incident or string of events happens that triggers a work injury or occupational disease on the work premises, proving you caught an infectious disease at work can be difficult and negatively impact your claim if not done correctly and thoroughly. There are two factors at play that need to be proved in order for you to see any benefits: you must prove that your workplace exposed you to your disease at a greater degree than what the general public would normally be exposed to, and that the specific job duties you perform and environment you work in significantly contributed to you contracting your disease.


The common cold and the flu are prevalent throughout America and spread fairly easily across the population, even among groups of people who don’t work in an office every day. Catching a cold or the flu from a coworker while at work is not likely to award you any money, even if you end up missing work for several days as a result of your illness, because your risk of contraction is about the same as the general public’s risk of contraction.


More serious and possibly lethal diseases, such as HIV, hepatitis, typhoid or meningitis, can be eligible for workers’ comp if your coworker brought it into the workplace and you work alongside said coworker for the majority of your workday.  Workers’ comp, in this case, would clearly be attainable, since you technically caught the disease while at work and your employment gave you a greater risk of contracting the disease than what the general public would normally have.


What to Do If You Contract an Infectious Disease at Work

If you contract an infectious disease at work, whether or not you’re eligible for workers’ compensation can depend on a number of circumstances. It’s advised to see a doctor to determine the extent of your injuries, and your workers’ comp claim will also require you to prove the link between your disease and your employment in order to see benefits. The best way to discover which benefits you’re eligible for is to hire a qualified workers’ compensation lawyer.


Goldberg & Wolf has been representing work injury and occupational disease claims throughout Cherry Hill and surrounding areas since 1992. Our highly experienced legal team will go through your case with meticulous attention to detail and help you file your claim within the statute of limitations for New Jersey workers’ comp law.


Get the compensation you deserve from lawyers who are ready to focus on your recovery and rights. Contact us today for a free case evaluation at 856-651-1600 or visit our office at 1949 Berlin Road in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

Am I Entitled to Receive a Lump Sum After Suffering a Work Injury?

Am I Entitled to a Lump Sum for my Work Injury?

Getting injured while at work is not an uncommon phenomenon. Employees who are met with an injury at the workplace are liable to receive workers’ compensation. And, if you have been fortunate enough never to have sustained a work injury until now, then workers’ comp may seem like a somewhat foreign concept. Workers’ compensation is defined as “a remedial social legislation to ensure that employees injured on the job will be paid without regard to fault.”


The workers’ compensation program was created to protect employees injured on the job. Typically, casual and contractual employees may not receive benefits covered under this program. These benefits may include medical costs, lost wages, and rehabilitation costs. Workers’ compensation program is a state-mandated insurance program.


If you have suffered an injury at work, but the insurance company has denied your claim, or in some other way disputed your claim, you may have the option of accepting a lump sum settlement. But, there is much more involved in this possibility than most are aware of.


What is a “Section 20 Settlement?

If you are wondering if there is a possibility to be granted a lump sum settlement following a work injury, you are in luck. However, there are many more details that you need to be informed of before seriously considering this option.


Specifically, in the state of New Jersey, you may be eligible to receive a lump sum workers’ comp settlement which practitioners might often refer to as a “Section 20” or a “lump-sum” dismissal.


However, this type of settlement does have its limitations.


By accepting a Section 20 Settlement, you essentially agree to accept the lump sum in exchange for a dismissal of your workers’ compensation claim. When you accept this lump sum settlement, you are thereby giving up any rights to future medical treatment, temporary disability benefits, permanent disability benefits, vocational rehabilitation services – and any other benefits or compensation that you would be awarded through a workers’ comp claim.


And, if you accept a Section 20 Settlement, you are not eligible to reopen the claim if your condition continues to grow worse over time.


Why Would You Accept a Section 20 Settlement?

If you are currently involved in a work injury claim, then you most likely already know how tricky workers’ compensation claims can be. That being said; is a lump sum of compensation worth dropping the benefits awarded in a workers’ comp claim?


In some particular and unique cases, yes. Since a Section 20 Settlement is final, this type of settlement should only be considered if the risks associated with taking the case to trial are detrimental enough to make dropping any future rights granted through a workers’ compensation claim worth it.


And, while taking the “easier” and quicker way may seem much more appealing at the moment, you have to remember to think in the long-run scope as opposed to just the short-term; which can be rather difficult since you are going through such an emotional and stressful time in your life.


How do You Know if You Should Accept a Section 20 Settlement?

As you can most likely imagine, the Section 20 Settlement route is usually preferred by the employer more so than the claimant. This is because it is an opportunity for the employer to put an end to the issue for good; meaning they will not have to follow up with the workers’ compensation claim and put an end to your case for good.


So, is it a wise idea to accept a Section 20 Settlement from your employer rather than seeing your claim through? The answer will vary depending on the important details of your case, and should not be decided without serious consideration and experienced counsel.


Get a Work Injury Lawyer Who Can Help You Decide

Obtaining an injury on the job is never an ideal situation, and should not ever be taken lightly. While you might be overwhelmed by the intimidating world of workers’ comp claim, you should make sure to consider all of your options with the help of a knowledgeable attorney in the employment field.


Navigating a work injury claim on your own is never the best way to seek the compensation you deserve. If you are considering filing a claim following a work injury, or are already in the process of filing a claim, you should reach out to an experienced lawyer straight away to explore your options.


If you believe you are entitled to workers’ compensation or want to explore other possible benefits available to you following a work injury, give the Law Offices of Goldberg & Wolf a call today at (856) 651-1600 so we can guide you on how to go about filing your claim.

Workers’ Compensation Section 20 vs. 22: Which Section is for You?


Section 20 vs. 22: Which Settlement is for You?

Employers dealing with workers’ compensation claims filed against them by their employees have many facets of each case to consider when deciding on a potential settlement. Each unique case, and the circumstances under which a particular claimant suffered a work injury will bring about the possibility of settlement either under Section 20 or Section 22 of New Jersey’s Workers’ Compensation Law.


But what are the differences between these two types of settlements, and which one works out best for the employer and employee? Which type an employer eventually petitions for depends on the injury or illness suffered by the filing employee, whether they’re at risk of re-injuring the same body part in the future, and whether there is a bona fide issue of causation or liability of the injury that needs to be resolved.


Pros and Cons of Settling Under Section 20

Before delving into the benefits this type of settlement can give an employer, let’s go over exactly what a Section 20 settlement is. A Section 20 settlement, named for the corresponding section of New Jersey Workers’ Comp Law, happens when both parties agree to a one-time lump sum payout to settle a workers’ comp case and the agreement is approved by a judge. Once settled, a Section 20 case cannot be reopened in the event of the claimant re-injuring the same body part at some point in the future.


Employers and insurance carriers greatly benefit from this type of settlement because they won’t have to pay any additional amount of money in the future in the case of re-injury, and the employer does not have to admit fault or liability in the workplace accident. This is an easy way out for the employer and a way to save money they won’t have to dedicate to future doctors’ visits or treatment, which is why they prefer Section 20 to Section 22. However, the employee filing the claim is not as fortunate in this situation.


A Section 20 settlement is purely for insurance rating purposes and is not an actual workers’ comp payout, and will not provide the employee with additional medical bill or wage loss assistance in the future if they suffer further injury to the body part they already injured at work.


In some cases or pre-existing conditions or re-injury, employers and their insurance companies are having to pay ten times more than they had ever imagined. This is called “Apportionment.” Knowing whether your employer relies on this practice is very beneficial to the potential of future workers’ compensation cases you might have and what their outcome may be.


Pros and Cons of Orders Approving Settlement, Or Section 22

Most workers’ comp lawyers will advise against a Section 20 settlement if you’ve been hurt on the job; instead, they will guide you towards the option of an Order Approving Settlement, detailed in Section 22 of New Jersey’s Workers’ Comp Law. This type of settlement is paid out in weekly installments, and the employee receives a percentage of disability paid out by the employer.


Unlike the permanence of a Section 20 closure, a Section 22 allows the employee to seek more money for future treatments if they re-injure their originally injured body part within two years of the last date of payment, and will give an employer a credit for the percentage of workers’ comp they’ve paid. However, settling under Section 22 requires the employer to admit fault for their employee’s workplace injury, and it can potentially cost them more money over time if they have to pay an extra amount to the injured employee in case of future re-injury.


Why Does This Difference Matter?

These two types of settlement have the same end goal in mind—to ensure you end up with the workers’ compensation you rightfully deserve for suffering an injury or contracting an illness while on the job. However, there are only certain instances where you can file a Section 20 settlement, and it must be approved by a judge before you see any benefits. This type of settlement really benefits your employer more than it will benefit you for a number of reasons.


Remember that your employer does not have to admit fault or liability for your accident in a Section 20 settlement. All they have to do is request a judge’s approval and payout a lump sum in order to send your claim to the archives forever, without the fear of you reopening it and demanding more money from them. However, it means you can’t reopen the case at a later date if you re-injure your same body part, and you won’t receive any additional funds for future medical treatments, hospital bills or lost wages if that’s the case.


Section 22 settlements are a far better situation for you to be in, but a much worse situation for your employer. Neither type of settlement accounts for or can prevent a future re-injury from happening, but a Section 22 settlement means a higher payout rate for your employer, which they’ll most likely do anything to prevent.


A percentage of disability is paid by your employer based on the body part injured, and severity of the injury suffered, so if they’re paying 25% for your injury now, and in 2020, you re-injure your back, for example, their percentage paid will most likely increase, which costs them more money in the long run. The Section 20 settlement option allows for an employer to argue for a lower credit since there is no initial credit amount established when a claim is first filed, and they can still file for a retroactive credit for the previous injury in the event of a re-injury.


Which Type of Settlement is Right for You?

New Jersey’s workers’ comp settlement options give you a choice if you’ve suffered an injury or contracted an illness at work, but you may still be a bit confused as to which option is right for your specific situation. Before you file your claim, it’s highly recommended to consult with a seasoned workers’ compensation attorney to determine which settlement option you should go with, and to make sure you’ve correctly filled out all necessary documents by the proper deadlines.


Your attorney can review Section 20 vs. Section 22 settlements with you and help you make an informed decision based on which one will most benefit you. In the event of a re-injury to your already injured body part if you originally settled your case under an Order Approving Settlement, it’s important to document all additional medical expenses and time out of work within two years after your last benefit payment so the Division of Labor can review your claim and adjust your payout accordingly.


When in Doubt, Contact an Experienced NJ Workers’ Comp Lawyer

If you’re feeling any uneasiness about your workers’ comp claim or fearing possible retaliation from your employer, you should turn to an experienced workers’ comp lawyer to help you sort out the details of your case and ensure you receive the full amount of compensation to which you’re entitled.


Goldberg & Wolf have fought and won thousands of cases in the courtroom for injured workers throughout Cherry Hill and the surrounding areas. We’ve been relentless advocates for workers’ rights and benefits since 1992, and now we’re ready to learn more about how your work injury has impacted your life. Call us today for a free consultation at 856-651-1600 or visit our office at 1949 Berlin Road in Cherry Hill, NJ.