New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Bill Spurs Debate
As any person who has been injured on the job is likely aware of, workers’ compensation benefits are of vital importance when that person is unable to work. These benefits not only help injured workers cover the gap left by their lost wages but also medical expenses associated with the on-the-job injury – which can be substantial.
Workers’ compensation insurance is especially significant for New Jersey workers that are employed in industries susceptible to dangerous conditions and accidents, such as those who work on construction sites or in building zones.
However, New Jersey workers in another inherently dangerous field – emergency first responders – have recently been the topic of discussion for various state and local lawmakers due to a New Jersey legislative bill.
This particular bill – Assembly Bill 1196 – is causing some controversy as it would, if passed, create the presumption of workers’ compensation coverage for any first responder’s injury, disability or death in certain situations.
Specifically, the bill – which would cover firefighters, police and ambulance personnel, – would create this presumption for all public safety workers who suffer an injury, disability or death responding to a “terrorist attack, epidemic, or other catastrophic emergency” in which they are exposed to biological toxins, pathogens or hazardous materials or chemicals. Interestingly, the bill would also cover psychological disabilities arising out of these events, such as post traumatic stress disorder.
Furthermore, the bill would protect public safety workers who develop an injury, illness or death caused by exposure to a “known carcinogen, cancer-causing radiation or radioactive substance” if the worker can show he or she was exposed on the job due to a fire, explosion or spill – which would primarily apply to firefighters.
Under the language of the bill, the presumption of workers’ compensation coverage can be rebutted if “clear and convincing” evidence is found proving that the disability, injury or death in not linked to the emergency event.
This particular bill has been causing some waves as some local lawmakers and municipal governments believe implementing this bill will be cost prohibitive. In addition, many insurance company lobbyists, as expected, oppose the bill.
However, others in favor of the bill reiterate that the bill only covers catastrophic events and that New Jersey first responders need to be protected given that they are the first line of defense in emergency situations.
It remains to be seen whether or not this bill is ever passed, however, it does illustrate the importance attached to workers’ compensation benefits for those workers employed in hazardous occupations. As such, if you or a loved one as suffered an injury of disability due to an on-the-job injury, it is important to speak with an experience workers’ compensation attorney to ensure your rights are protected and you get the compensation you may be entitled to.