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How does the new workers’ comp law help first responders?

On Behalf of | Mar 5, 2024 | Workers' Compensation |

At the beginning of this year, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill into law that expands workers’ compensation coverage for New Jersey first responders who suffer an injury or other medical event due to their work.

The new law does a couple of important things for these workers who do highly stressful and dangerous work – sometimes on a volunteer basis. The new law provides coverage to paramedics and emergency medical technicians whether they work for a government entity or a private company. It also extends coverage to volunteer police, firefighters, rescue and first aid workers.

Coverage for medical events that occur after an emergency is over

The new law also expands the previous “rebuttable presumption” that if a first responder suffered a heart attack or stroke while responding to an emergency, it was assumed to be work related unless proven otherwise. Besides extending that to volunteer first responders, the new law extends the time period of covered medical events up to 24 hours after the end of their work on the emergency.

According to the president of the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey, this change in the law was inspired by an EMT who suffered a fatal heart attack within hours after he’d dealt with a car crash in which is daughter was a victim. His family hadn’t been able to get workers’ comp survivors benefits.

The firefighters association president noted, “The work of our members, firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics is physical in nature, and when you add the emotional and environmental stressors that we bring home after our shift, our bodies are negatively impacted hours and days after the response is over.”

There’s no doubt that this law will help first responders and their families get the workers’ comp benefits they need and deserve. However, that doesn’t mean that workers may not still face challenges in getting a claim approved – particularly if the circumstances fall under the revisions to the law. As a result, it can help to have experienced legal guidance to help expedite the claims process.