New Jersey enacts law expanding workers’ compensation for firefighters

January 22, 2024

New legislation in New Jersey now extends workers’ compensation coverage to fire fighters, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and paramedics who suffer fatal heart attacks or strokes.

This bill, which received unanimous support in the Senate and full backing from the House, was signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy, significantly aided by the efforts of the Professional Fire Fighters Association of New Jersey (PFANJ).

Extended coverage for firefighters

Previously, the families of fire fighters, EMTs, and paramedics were only automatically eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if the fatal cardiac event or stroke occurred while on duty.

This required families, in other circumstances, to prove the incident was job-related.

The new law changes this, extending the coverage to include a period of up to 24 hours after a shift.

It also establishes a presumption that such medical events are a direct result of the strenuous nature of the work performed by these professionals.

Impact on families

The law’s immediate effect and its coverage of all pending cases is a significant change.

PFANJ President Matthew Caliente highlighted this impact, stating: “With the signing of this legislation, we have ensured our families will no longer have to fight for the benefits they need during their time of mourning.”

This sentiment was echoed through the experience of families like the Padillas, who faced extended battles for benefits following the death of Newark Local 71 IAFF member Rafael Padilla from a heart attack shortly after his shift.

FSJA Comment

The enactment of this law in New Jersey represents a substantial step forward in recognizing and addressing the unique risks faced by fire fighters, EMTs, and paramedics.

By extending workers’ compensation coverage, New Jersey acknowledges the physical and emotional toll these roles can take, even beyond the duration of a shift.

This legislation not only provides immediate relief and support to families who have lost their loved ones but also sends a broader message of the state’s commitment to the welfare of its first responders.

The law’s passage, driven by the collective efforts of various stakeholders, reflects an understanding of the demanding nature of emergency services and a dedication to ensuring the well-being of those who serve in these critical roles.

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