What’s Hot in Workers' Comp – Special NJ Alert

Marshall Dennehey

On January 16, 2024, the Governor of New Jersey signed A-5909/S-4267 into law. The amendment revises workers’ compensation coverage for certain injuries to volunteer and professional public safety and emergency personal. The bill amends N.J.S.A. 34:15-7.3, adding that a response to an emergency, including remediating work thereafter, is sufficient work to cause injury or death to be compensable.

Section 7.3 of the statue holds that, should a cardiovascular or cerebrovascular injury or death occur to an individual covered by this section while engaged in a response to an emergency, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the injury or death is compensable, if that injury or death occurs while the individual is responding, under orders from a competent authority, to a law enforcement, public safety or medical emergency. This amendment now includes “remediating from” an emergency as a compensable action. This has been defined to mean leaving an emergency in a reasonable period of time, not to exceed 24 hours from the end of the emergency, to carry out post-incident agency protocols and decompression, including things such as critical incident stress debriefings.

The presumption of compensability is rebuttable by use of such things as horseplay, skylarking, self-infliction, voluntary intoxication and illicit drug use among other defenses. Clear and convincing medical evidence that the work experience was not a substantial cause of the cardiovascular or cerebrovascular injury is needed to overcome the presumption. 

The Bill also expands coverage under this section to include career emergency medical technicians and paramedics employed the state, municipalities, or private sector employers who engage in public emergency medical and rescue services.

The amendments are effective immediately and apply to all applicable injuries and deaths for which claims are pending on the date of enactment. 

The Bill addresses the concerns of public safety personnel and first responders about, not only the physical toll in responding to emergencies, but also the emotional and environmental stressors that continue after the immediate response to an emergency has ended. It has yet to be seen how this amendment will impact the number of claims filed as the covered activities have been expanded but, also, the number of covered employees who are now afforded benefits under this section of the statute.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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Marshall Dennehey

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