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New Jersey Essential Employee Work Injury Law Firm

COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, changed every Americans’ life seemingly overnight. Initially, there were a few isolated cases in various cities across the country; however, New York and New Jersey quickly became two of the most affected “hot spots.” Indeed, New Jersey has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country, as well as the second highest number of deaths related to complications from the virus, behind only New York.

To slow the spread of the virus, Governor Murphy implemented a strict stay-at-home order, shutting schools down for the remainder of the year, closing many businesses and order residents to stay at home. Of course, the Governor could not shut down all businesses; and those businesses designated as “essential” were allowed to remain open. While some employers made accommodations, many New Hersey essential employees were required to go into work as usual, despite the serious risks involved. Not surprisingly, many New Jersey essential workers have contracted the coronavirus.

At the New Jersey personal injury law firm of Petrillo & Goldberg Law, we proudly represent essential employees who contracted COVID-19 while on the job. As local Pennsauken injury lawyers, we are committed to helping fellow New Jersey residents deal with the pandemic in any way we can. Our team of dedicated advocates have been representing clients in all types of personal injury and wrongful death cases since 1993, and have the experience necessary to effectively and efficiently help you bring a case for compensation.

Statistics section:

The United States has the most COVID-19 cases in the world:

  • 925,758 cases
  • 52,217 deaths
  • 5,037,473 COVID-19 tests administered

At 102,196 cases, New Jersey has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in the United States.

At 5,617 deaths, New Jersey has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in the United States.

New Jersey has administered 205,921 COVID-19 tests since the beginning of the pandemic.

Source: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/ (as of 4/25/20)

The Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington area has the third-highest rate of workers who spend a significant amount of time in close physical proximity with others (33 percent of all workers).

Source: https://www.citylab.com/equity/2020/04/coronavirus-risk-jobs-essential-workers-data-class-divide/609529/

In Camden County, there have been 2,750 cases of COVID-19 and 106 Camden County residents have passed away from complications related to the virus.

The New Jersey counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases are:

  • Bergen County – 14,363 cases
  • Hudson County – 13,001 cases
  • Essex County – 12,110 cases
  • Union County – 11,208 cases
  • Passaic County – 10,291 cases
  • Middlesex County – 9,789 cases

The New Jersey counties with the highest number of COVID-19-related deaths are:

  • Essex County – 975 deaths
  • Bergen County – 934 deaths
  • Hudson County – 640 deaths
  • Union County – 542 deaths
  • Middlesex County – 413 deaths
  • Passaic County – 383 deaths
  • Morris County – 340 deaths

Approximately 44 percent of those who were tested for COVID-19 in New Jersey tested positive for the virus.

New Jersey COVID-19-related deaths by age:

  • 0 to 4: no deaths
  • 5 to 17: no deaths
  • 18 to 29: 24 deaths
  • 30 to 49: 229 deaths
  • 50 to 64: 838 deaths
  • 65 to 79: 1,669 deaths
  • 80 and older: 2,302 deaths

COVID-19 has disproportionately affected racial minorities, especially African Americans. The racial composition of New jersey is:

White – 54.9 percent

Black – 15 percent

Hispanic – 20.6 percent

Asian – 10 percent

However, the New Jersey COVID-19 deaths by race are:

  • White – 49.3 percent of all deaths
  • Black – 22 percent of all deaths
  • Hispanic – 17.2 percent of all deaths
  • Asian – 5.4 percent of all deaths
  • Other – 6.1 percent of all deaths

Source: https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/topics/covid2019_dashboard.shtml(as of 4/25/2020)

Across the United States, there are between 49 to 62 million essential workers, representing between 34 to 43 percent of the total workforce.

Essential workers spend, on average, 55 percent of their time in close proximity with others.

Many essential workers earn less than the national average of $18.58 per hour.

12 percent of essential workers do not have health insurance

Source: https://www.brookings.edu/research/how-to-protect-essential-workers-during-covid-19/

COVID-19 in New Jersey

The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, is an infectious respiratory disease that is spread through the air. Specifically, the virus is spread through droplets that are released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. COVID-19 can also spread when someone touches an infected surface and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.

  • Symptoms of COVID-19

Symptoms of the disease are similar to the flu, and include a dry cough, low-grade fever and difficulty breathing. Some patients have reported a loss of smell, general aches and pains, nasal congestion, a runny nose, sore throat and diarrhea. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should reach isolate themselves from others and immediately reach out to a healthcare professional to determine whether they should be tested.

  • Who Is at the Highest Risk?

Most of those who contract the novel coronavirus will recover within a few weeks. However, these individuals may need to be hospitalized, and possibly may need to be ventilated, although that is uncommon for healthy individuals. The major concern with COVID-19 is that it presents an increased risk of complications for those over 60 years of age, the immunocompromised, as well as individuals with certain pre-existing health conditions, including:

  • Chronic lung conditions
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • HIV
  • Serious heart conditions
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease

  • Staying Safe During the COVID-19 Pandemic

To reduce the spread of the disease and to stay safe, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that everyone:

  • Stay at home and self-isolate if they are feeling unwell;
  • Cover their nose and mouth with a disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing;
  • Wash their hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with liquid soap and water;
  • Follow social distancing protocol by avoiding close contact (within six feet) with those who may have the virus; and
  • Wear a mask to prevent the spread of the virus, even if you do not have symptoms.

  • Interested in Learning More?

The COVID-19 crisis in New Jersey is constantly changing each day, and so do the suggestions on how to best prevent against the spread of the virus. Below is a list of resources for those interested in learning more about the virus and how to stay safe during the pandemic:

New Jersey Essential Employees

In an attempt to combat the rapid spread of COVID-19, Governor Murphy signed a series of executive orders. The executive orders are quite detailed; however, in essence the Governor closed down schools, most government functions and ordered that all non-essential businesses shut down in-person operations. However, the Governor’s orders allow essential businesses to remain open. According to the Governor’s executive order, employees who work for the following business are may be considered essential employees:

  • Grocery stores
  • Farmer’s markets
  • Farms that sell directly to customers
  • Other food stores, including retailers that food comparable to what exists at a grocery store
  • Pharmacies
  • Medical marijuana dispensaries
  • Medical supply stores
  • Gas stations
  • Convenience stores
  • Hardware stores
  • Banks and financial institutions
  • Laundromats and dry cleaners
  • Stores that sell supplies for children under the age of five
  • Pet stores
  • Liquor stores
  • Car dealerships (for maintenance and repair only)
  • Printing shops
  • Office supply stores
  • Mail and delivery stores

In addition, those businesses that remain open must take certain precautions to protect employees, customers and the general public from the further spread of the virus. For example, essential businesses must follow appropriate social distancing protocol, including keeping all customers six feet apart (including while waiting in line) and frequently cleaning and disinfecting all surfaces. The Governor’s order also explains that all businesses – both essential and non-essential – must “accommodate their workforce, wherever practicable, for telework or work-from-home arrangements.” If employees of a business or organization cannot perform their necessary functions through telework or working from home, then the business should “make best efforts to reduce staff on site to the minimal number necessary to ensure that essential operations can continue.”

In early April, Governor Murphy signed two additional executive orders, requiring certain businesses take additional precautions. These orders mandate that all essential businesses perform the following:

  • Clean and disinfect high-touch areas routinely in accordance with CDC guidelines;
  • Maintain current cleaning procedures in all other areas of the facility;
  • Ensure that the facility has a sufficient number of workers to perform the above protocols effectively.

In addition, these orders imposed strict regulations on certain types of businesses, including:

  • Requirements for bars and restaurants:
    • Limiting occupancy to 10 percent of the facility’s maximum capacity;
    • Ensuring at least six feet of distance between workers and customers;
    • Arranging for contactless pay, pickup and delivery options;
    • Providing hand sanitizer and wipes to employees and customers;
    • Frequent sanitizing of high-touch areas;
    • Requiring infection control practices such as regular hand washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and proper tissue usage;
    • Placing signage at entrances and throughout the food business alerting staff and customers to the required six feet of distance;
    • Requiring workers and customers to wear cloth face coverings, provided at the company’s expense;
    • Requiring workers to wear gloves, provided at the company’s expense.

  • Requirements for essential retail businesses:
    • Immediately sending workers home who appear to have respiratory symptoms;
    • Promptly notifying workers of any known exposure to COVID-19;
    • Cleaning and disinfecting the worksite in accordance with CDC guidelines when a worker has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
    • Continuing to follow all guidelines and directives issued by the New Jersey Department of Health, the CDC, and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration for maintaining a clean, safe and healthy work environment.
    • Limiting occupancy to 50 percent of maximum store capacity at one time;
    • Establishing hours of operation specifically for the exclusive use of high-risk individuals;
    • Installing a physical barrier, such as a shield guard, between customers and cashiers/baggers where possible and anywhere you cannot maintain 6 feet of distance;
    • Requiring regular hand washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and proper tissue usage and disposal;
    • Allowing employees break time for regular hand washing;
    • Arranging for contactless pay options, pickup, or delivery;
    • Providing hand sanitizer and wipes to staff and customers;
    • Frequently sanitize high-touch areas like restrooms, credit card machines, keypads, counters and shopping carts;
    • Requiring infection control practices such as regular hand washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and proper tissue usage;
    • Placing signage at entrances and throughout the store alerting staff and customers to the required six feet of distance;
    • Clearly mrking six feet of spacing in check-out lines to demonstrate appropriate social distancing;
    • Requiring workers and customers to wear cloth face coverings, provided at the company’s expense;
    • Requiring workers to wear gloves, provided at the company’s expense.

New Jersey essential businesses have an obligation to follow these procedures to protect their employees. Businesses that fail to enact the required protocols are placing their employees and customers at risk. Essential employees who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 should reach out to a dedicated New Jersey workplace injury lawyer at Petrillo & Goldberg Law. Our team of personal injury advocates have over 25 years of experience helping injured workers recover compensation for the injuries.

Compensation May Be Available for New Jersey Employees Who Have Been Diagnosed with COVID-19

When an employee is hurt in an on-the-job accident, or is diagnosed with an occupational disease, they may be entitled to compensation through either a New Jersey workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury claim.

The workers’ compensation system allows for an injured employee to quickly obtain limited benefits after a workplace injury or occupational illness. Employees pursuing a workers’ compensation claim do not need to establish that their employer was at fault; however, the trade-off to these claims is that these they do not allow for the recovery of non-economic damages, such as compensation for pain and suffering.

Workers’ compensation claims may be contested, and a workers’ compensation attorney can greatly increase an employee’s chances of quickly obtaining benefits. Because most New Jersey employers must purchase workers’ compensation insurance, an insurance company is often the one who will be paying out on a claim, rather than the employer. Thus, an insurance company may contest either the severity of an employee’s injuries or claim that the injuries were not related to their employment. For example, an insurance company may dispute that an essential employee contracted COVID-19 while on the job, and claim that they got the virus from another source, perhaps a friend or family member.

The second type of claim that may be available to a New Jersey essential employee who contracts COVID-19 is a personal injury claim. Under New Jersey law, there are no limits on the type or amount of damages that can be awarded in a personal injury claim (with the exception of punitive damages, which are limited in most circumstances to $350,000, or five times the amount of compensatory damages, whichever is greater). However, to successfully bring in a personal injury claim, a worker must be able to establish that the named defendant was negligent, and that the defendant’s negligence resulted in their injuries.

Bringing a personal injury case after a New Jersey workplace injury can be tricky due to the exclusive remedy provision of the New Jersey workers’ compensation law. Generally, when an employee is injured on the job, their exclusive remedy against an employer is a workers’ compensation claim. Thus, absent an exception, an employee who is injured on the job can file for workers’ compensation, but cannot pursue a personal injury case against their employer.

Notably, the exclusive-remedy provision does not prevent an employee from pursuing a personal injury case against a third party, such as a customer, supplier, vendor, employee of another business, or maintenance contractor. Similarly, the sole remedy provision of the workers’ compensation act does not apply if the worker’s injury was the result of an employers’ “intentional wrong.”

Contact a Pennsauken Essential Employee Workplace Injury Law Firm

If you or someone you care about is an essential worker and has recently been diagnosed with COVID-19, contact the knowledgeable Pennsauken personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at Petrillo & Goldberg Law. Employers are responsible for creating a safe workplace, and workers who have become ill as a result of their employment may be entitled to compensation for their injuries. At Petrillo & Goldberg, have assembled a compassionate team of advocates who have dedicated their career to ensuring that New Jersey injury victims recover the compensation they deserve. To learn more, call 856-249-9288 to schedule a free consultation. Petrillo & Goldberg remains open for business and will continue to serve your legal needs in this very difficult time.

Call US AT 856.486.4343
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The highly competent lawyers at Petrillo and Goldberg represent clients with personal injury claims, workers compensation claims, slip-and-fall cases and automobile accident victims. We work for you, and take our job of getting the best possible results for you seriously.

Scott M. Goldberg

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Steven Petrillo

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Scott D. Schulman

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