Scales of Justice
I have truly enjoyed the practice of workers’ compensation law during all these many years I have been practicing. Over that time I have appeared in all of South Jersey’s workers’ compensation vicinages, or districts. These include Camden, Bridgeton, Atlantic City, Burlington as well as Trenton.
The following may or may not come as a surprise to you. The system of delivering workers’ compensation benefits to injured workers in New Jersey has changed very little over the past 50 or more years. The process of having cases adjudicated is virtually the same now as it was in 1965.
Let’s assume a worker experiences a typical low back injury following a fall at work. The worker, now a client, engages an attorney.
But what happens next?
The employer’s insurer selects health care providers to supply the treatment for the injury. In New Jersey, the employee does not get to pick his orthopedic surgeon or physiotherapist or pharmacist or radiologist or any other physician. The selection process is controlled by the insurer.
Only the insurer is permitted to select these providers. This is intended to keep expenses down. It is also meant to control the possibility of unnecessary over-treatment for the benefit of the physician’s own lifestyle.
Injured workers are entitled to temporary disability benefits if they are unable to work for more than one week due to the injury. They then become entitled to temporary disability benefits. These benefits are generally based on 70% of their weekly wages. Further, the benefits are payable for up to 450 weeks and until one is able to resume employment.
Temporary disability payments are also provided until the patient has “plateaued”. The authorized physician determines the patient has or reached MMI (maximum medical improvement). This is not synonymous with being cured – it merely means that he or she will not get better with additional “curative treatment.”
At this time a Claim Petition is generally filed on behalf of the client in the county of the petitioner’s residence. The case is listed initially and rather promptly along with about 50 other pending matters before a Judge of Workers’ Compensation.
The employer’s insurer files an “Answer”. The insurer is then obliged to furnish the petitioner’s attorney with copies of medical records which the carrier has obtained from the authorized medical providers.
These records are submitted by counsel for the petitioner to another physician. This physician specializes in providing disability evaluations based on a percentage of loss of bodily function attributable in case of a back injury, to “partial total” disability (unless the petitioner is deemed to be totally disabled) and likewise, if other parts of the body are involved the percentage may be to the hand, the foot, the leg, the arm, the hand, fingers, toes or even hearing loss.
Of course, in addition to reviewing medical records, the evaluating physician also examines the patient. The same process occurs with regard to an evaluation on behalf of the Respondent (i.e. the employer).
In a future blog article, I will explain the “Schedule of Disabilities and Maximum Benefits Exclusive of Amputation and Enucleation.” This chart is updated every year. It provides practitioners and the court with guideposts for determining permanent or (most frequently) partial permanent disability benefits in New Jersey, It depends, of course, on the nature and extent of residual disability.
No compensation is included under workers’ compensation for pain and suffering. In return, the employee is no longer required to provide proof that the employer’s negligence was the direct and proximate cause of the injury, as was the case under the common law.
You can learn more on our Workers’ Compensation page.
Our firm welcomes the opportunity to provide a confidential, no-obligation consultation to any worker injured while at work. Please call us at 856.235.1234 or use our contact form.
COVID 19 Long Hauler Gastrointestinal Issues
Some Long Covid patients are experiencing “Dysautonomia.” POTS, (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) is a subset of Dysautonomia. It is an umbrella term used to describe several different medical conditions that cause a malfunction of the Autonomic Nervous System.
“The Autonomic Nervous System controls the “automatic” functions of the body that we do not consciously think about, such as heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, dilation and constriction of the pupils of the eye, kidney function, and temperature control.
“People living with various forms of dysautonomia have trouble regulating these systems, which can result in lightheadedness, fainting, unstable blood pressure, abnormal heart rates, malnutrition, and in severe cases, death.” Cf: https://www.dysautonomiainternational.org/index.php and https://www.dysautonomiainternational.org/page.php?ID=30
POTS was estimated to impact one out of 100 teenagers and a total of 1,000,000 to 3,000,000 Americans, including adult patients, even before the pandemic. In addition to the above symptoms, POTS can cause tachycardia, chest pains, shortness of breath, GI (gastrointestinal) tract upset, shaking, exercise intolerance, temperature sensitivity and more.
While POTS predominantly impacts young women who look healthy on the outside, researchers have been comparing the disability seen in POTS to the disability seen in COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) patients and are alarmed by the commonalities.
Yet, it is no wonder that Long Covid patients display many of the same lingering symptoms of POTS given the fact that POTS has been associated with a previous infection. The increased influx of COVID-19 survivors with dizziness, intense fatigue and inability to exercise correlates with the virus’s infectious appearance in March 2020.
An article by Stacey Burling appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on March 28, 2021. It was entitled “POTS is a mysterious disorder with a striking resemblance to long-haul COVID-19. Pandemic research may provide treatment clues for both.”
The author refers to Dr. Tae Chung of Johns Hopkins University in the article. Dr. Chung “knew what was coming when he started reading last summer about COVID-19 patients who had lingering symptoms.” As a specialist in neuromuscular medicine he “immediately saw that the baffling array of symptoms that so-called long haulers were reporting was strikingly similar to what had seen for years among patients with a condition called POTS…”
POTS patients may also display other symptoms which may include fainting when patients sit or stand, fatigue, brain fog, palpitations, nausea, insomnia, headaches, and feeling worse after exercise. Hands and feet often turn purple when they are below heart level. Many patients feel worse after exposure to hot weather or showers.
Treatment of POTS is still an imperfect process. Patients are advised to drink fluids and eat salt to increase blood volume. Wearing compression stockings and garments that compress the abdomen followed by a gradual exercise regime while lying down and then sitting are also recommended.
Any essential employee who has been diagnosed with the POTS syndrome or Dysautonomia months after a Covid virus infection should consider engaging our firm to evaluate entitlement to Workers’ Compensation benefits in New Jersey.
Call or email Joshua Friedman, recently retired New Jersey Workers Compensation Judge or any member of this law firm, Taenzer, Ettenson & Aberant, p.c., at 856-235-1234 for a free evaluation of your case.
We were encouraged by a recent article in The New York Times entitled “Some Long-Term Covid Patents Say They Feel Better After Getting Shots”. One can only wonder whether this “too good to be true” phenomenon is real.
The article, authored by Pam Belluck, describes the experiences of a number of Long Haulers. Their symptoms disappeared shortly after being vaccinated.
Laura Gross, 72, of Fort Lee, New Jersey had “debilitating long Covid symptoms” since April. Those symptoms included exhaustion, joint pain, muscle aches and a “zizzy-dizzy-weaky thing that was like an internal headachy all-over-body-vibration.” She was also quoted as saying “Brain fog barely describes it…It’s more like brain cyclone.”
She received the Moderna vaccination in late January. Three days later the brain fog cleared completely and her muscle aches were gone. Joint pains were less intense and she also suddenly had much more energy.
The article describes several other similar cases. Explanations by medical professionals for these “miracle cures” include the placebo effect. However, that seems unlikely.
Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale, suggested a “post-viral response resembling an autoimmune disease” might be the reason people find relief. She was quoted to say that “the vaccine stimulates innate immune responses that dampen these kinds of auto-reactive responses.” The doctor also commented that the relief may not be long-lasting and some symptoms may return.
The next step will be the verification of this phenomenon by peer-reviewed scientific studies.
The author poses several questions. An interesting one is: “Are there specific characteristics, like age, gender, type or duration of symptoms, that might make some long Covid patients more likely to feel better?”
Suffice to say, there is still much to be learned about this COVID-19 disease and its variants. It has already killed, impaired and disrupted the lives of millions around the globe. It is our sincere hope that vaccinations will suppress this awful disease and reinvigorate the economy.
Call (856) 235-1234 today to talk with one of our firm’s attorneys to discuss your COVID-19 illness. Feel free to visit our contact page for email addresses or to submit a contact form.
Accessing disability benefits for Long Hauler COVID-19 patients is somewhat difficult among support group members. There is a specific
area of the law which addresses this matter, but it is often overlooked.
Workers’ Compensation is readily available for these Long Covid sufferers in a number of jurisdictions including New Jersey. These Essential Employees are legally presumed by law to have contracted the illness at work.
If your illness was demonstrably connected to your job it is likely compensable in all states under the category of “occupational” illness even without the benefit of this “rebuttable prima facie presumption.” This is regardless of whether or not your position is deemed to be “essential”. As an example, it is akin to exposure to asbestos.
A recent amendment to New Jersey Statutes Title 34. Labor and Workmen’s Compensation (N.J.S. 15-1 et. seq.) was signed by Governor Phil Murphy on September 14, 2020. It was made retroactive to March 9, 2020. The statute provides for a legal presumption that a SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis of an Essential Employee “is work-related and fully compensable.”
Further, an “Essential employee” “means an employee in the public or private sector who, during a state of emergency:
- is a public safety worker or first responder, including any fire, police or other emergency responders;
- is involved in providing medical and other healthcare services, emergency transportation, social services, and other care services, including services provided in health care facilities, residential facilities, or homes;
- performs functions which involve physical proximity to members of the public and are essential to the public’s health, safety, and welfare, including transportation services, hotel and other residential services, financial services, and the production, preparation, storage, sale, and distribution of essential goods such as food, beverages, medicine, fuel, and supplies for conducting essential business and work at home; or
- is any other employee deemed an essential employee by the public authority declaring the state of emergency.”
Workers’ compensation benefits typically include payment by the employer’s insurer for medical expenses, temporary disability benefits and permanent disability or partial permanent disability benefits. In addition, dependents of deceased employees are entitled to significant financial compensation for their loss.
If you are a Long Covid patient and have not investigated your rights to financial benefits under the Workers’ Compensation laws of your state, I would urge you to consult an attorney who is engaged in the practice of law which includes representation of clients who are injured in the course of their employment.
Our firm, Taenzer, Ettenson & Aberant, p.c., located in Moorestown, New Jersey would welcome the opportunity to provide a confidential, no-obligation consultation to any Long Covid patient who likely contracted this illness at work.
Please call me at 856.235.1234 or use our contact form.
Joshua Friedman, Esq.
Judge of Workers Compensation (Retired)
Scales of Justice
Are you now, or were you ever, an Essential Front Line Employee who suffered from COVID-19 due to exposure while at work?
Are you a Long Hauler who has suffered from long-term symptoms after contracting COVID-19?
Or, do you know of other Essential Front Line Employees who contracted COVID-19 while so employed?
If you, or someone you know or are related to, have suffered long-term symptoms which have not abated or may have even increased you should know the following.
You should seriously consider engaging our law firm with Joshua Friedman, retired Workers Compensation Judge. If necessary our firm we will file suit to assert your claim for COVID-19-related workers’ compensation disability benefits in New Jersey.
Here are some examples of the many Essential Employees covered under the New Jersey worker’s compensation law:
- Public safety workers or first responders, including fire, police, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), paramedics, etc.
Those who provide medical and other healthcare services, social services, emergency transportation or other care services. This may include services provided in residential facilities, health care facilities or homes. They include doctors, physician assistants, podiatrists, dentists, chiropractors, clinical psychologists, optometrists, nurses, nurse practitioners, clinical social workers, etc.
- Those who perform functions that involve physical proximity to members of the public and are essential to the public’s safety, welfare and health. Included are hotel workers, residential, transportation or financial services workers, as well as those workers engaged in the preparation, production, storage, sale or distribution of essential goods such as medicine and fuel, beverages and food as well as supplies to conduct essential business and work at home.
- Anyone else who is deemed an essential employee by the public authority declaring the state of emergency.
Call our office today at 856-235-1234 or go to our contact page for direct emails or to use our contact form.
There is no fee permitted to be charged until the case is concluded in favor of the client. Even then the fee must be approved by a judge.