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New reforms to New Jersey's workers' compensation laws

In New Jersey, the governor recently signed a new bill that will improve things for certain emergency first responders injured on the job. The bill reforms the state's existing workers' compensation laws.

The bill, A4882, will provide eligible workers with disability retirement benefits for participating in rescue and recovery efforts related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It will also extend the statute of limitations.

About bill A4882

The other name for A4882 is the Bill Ricci World Trade Center Rescue, Recovery and Cleanup Operations Act. Lawmakers named the bill after a firefighter who volunteered to work after the 9/11 attacks. The firefighter did not qualify for disability retirement benefits under the previous workers' compensation law in New Jersey. Now, however, he and workers like him will be eligible for benefits.

Before the passing of A4882, firefighters and other first responders with injuries or illnesses related to their job-related duties had to show proof of what caused their injuries. This includes demonstrating that the materials they handled during 9/11 recovery and cleanup contained asbestos, which in turn caused illnesses such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. Thanks to A4882, this burden of proof no longer exists.

Now, instead of spending time and money proving their injuries and illnesses, qualified first responders and firefighters who volunteered during 9/11 can benefit from a presumption of workers' compensation coverage. Those who provided at least seven years of service with injuries or illnesses do not have to prove what caused their injuries to qualify for financial benefits, nor do they have to show any evidence of exposure to hazardous substances.

The bill also covers police officers, rescue squads, first-aid teams, medical personnel and technicians who were present during 9/11 relief efforts. Qualifying individuals will not have to show what caused their injuries or illnesses; however, they will have to show evidence of on-the-job exposure. Finally, the bill created an exception to the five-year statute of limitations for 9/11-related operations, giving certain workers more time to file their claims.

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