Pregnant Employees and the Zika Virus: What are Your Rights?

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Unless you have been living in a media blackout, you have heard about the Zika virus and how it has become a major health issue in Brazil and the surrounding areas. The virus is spread through mosquito bites and as such, thrives in warm, humid climates where mosquitoes are abundant. While the virus itself is not fatal, it can cause extremely serious complications for pregnant women and their unborn children by causing microcephaly, a condition characterized by an abnormally small head and brain.

Are You Entitled to Workers Compensation Benefits if You Contract the Zika Virus While Traveling for Work

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been no mosquito-borne Zika cases reported in the United States, but there have been cases related to travel. The possibility of contracting Zika while traveling for business raises an interesting legal question – would an employee directed to travel for work who contracted Zika be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits?

Generally speaking, the answer seems to be yes. Injuries and illnesses that occur during the course of work-related travel usually entitle employees to workers’ compensation. As a result, it is very likely that a Zika victim would likely be able to get benefits for his or her medical expenses, lost income, and perhaps permanent disability, if applicable.

Another important issue that may arise in a case involving this type of situation is whether the employee would be able to file a personal injury lawsuit for his or her injuries (or that of an unborn child). The reason that a personal injury case would be preferable to workers’ compensation benefits is that the recovery through a lawsuit is generally much greater. Whether an employee could sue is a complicated question and depends on a variety of factors, including the following:

  • The current threat level posed by the Zika virus at the time of travel
  • Whether the employer had other options other than sending the employee to the place in question
  • Whether the employer offered to provide any measures that protected the employee from infection
  • Whether the employer was aware of the fact the employee was pregnant

If you have contracted an illness while traveling for work, you should speak with an experienced attorney immediately. A skilled New Jersey workers’ compensation lawyer will understand how to get you the compensation you deserve so that you can concentrate on your recovery.

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