A few weeks ago, we discussed a workers’ compensation bill that was being considered by the legislature. That bill, S-1469 would allow the surviving spouses of firefighters and police officers who had died in the line of duty to receive workers’ compensation, even after they had remarried. Some communities were concerned that the bill could cost them a great deal of additional resources to provide the expanded workers’ compensation benefits to these spouses.
On June 13, the bill, which had been approved by the legislature, was signed by Governor Christie. Under the old law, a surviving spouse received a lump-sum payout equal to 100 weeks of normal compensation prior to their remarriage. Spouses who have already obtained a lump-sum payout will not be eligible for the new workers’ compensation coverage.
Workers’ compensation provides an important benefit for any worker who has been injured while engaging in their job duties. And not just for the worker who is injured. Their spouse knows they will have some source of income during their recovery. For workers in high-risk professions, like police officers and firefighters, the stress is even greater.
When an officer stops a vehicle on a highway, they never know exactly the risk they will be facing when the step up to the driver’s door. In addition, they face the increased risk of dying in a motor vehicle accident due to the amount of time they spend on the road.
Firefighters, likewise, face many unknown risks every time they enter a burning structure. The spouses carry this knowledge with them every day they go to work. The additional compensation is a small recognition for those who make the ultimate sacrifice while doing their job.
NJ.com, “Workers’ Compensation bill for surviving spouses of dead police and firefighters signed into law,” Phil Davis, South Jersey Times, June 13, 2013