One would think that a first responder injured or sickened at the workplace would not have to face obstacles when it comes to receiving benefits after being exposed to hazardous materials. However, in New Jersey emergency responders still need to provide proof that diseases they suffer have resulted from some hazardous event.
A new proposal made by a New Jersey legislative committee apparently has the purpose of changing this situation. The legislation would create a presumption that the illness of an emergency responder was work-related for worker’s compensation purposes, and that an employer would have to challenge this presumption before payments could be suspended.
There have been complaints by carriers that this would result in more cost. For example, the presumption that particular types of cancer are work-related could double the amount of workers’ compensation benefits already paid out to these first responders. However, others have argued that there has been so great rise in payments when similar legislation has been passed in other states.
Though the assumption in workers’ compensation law has always been that employers will pay for work-related injuries or illnesses, there is still the requirement of proving up that the illness or injury was actually related to some circumstance at work. That’s why injured workers often require the assistance of an attorney that understands workers’ compensation law for the state in which they practice – in this case New Jersey.
We cannot assume that the new legislation will prevent employers from challenging workers’ compensation claims as each successful claim does result in an increase in the employer’s premiums. At the same time, emergency personnel should not be forced to wait when sickened by exposure to some substance at work.
Source: News Works, “ N.J. may ease restrictions on workers’ comp for emergency personnel,” by Phil Gregory, May 9, 2013