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New law may provide first responders workers' compensation

First responders run toward danger when others are running away. They run into burning buildings or flood waters or other disaster situations that could cause them harm. Some of the harm they face is exposure to chemicals, bacteria or other contaminants that could cause a serious illness. A bill recently signed into law by the governor provides workers' compensation coverage for such illnesses in New Jersey.

The bill states that serious ailments contracted by first responders, including many cancers, can be presumed to have been caused by on-the-job exposure. Unless the employer can prove that there is a chance, greater than 50%, that the cause was not workplace related, the employee may be entitled to workers' compensation. Firefighters, EMTs, police and other emergency workers may all benefit from the new law.

Firefighters are now covered regardless of whether they are paid or volunteer. The one condition is that they have seven years of service. Having less than seven years does not disqualify one from coverage, but additional information regarding the exposure may be required. In addition to the dangers encountered in a fire, the law also protects against exposure to bodily fluids as well as exposure to known toxins or serious communicable diseases.

First responders in New Jersey put the common welfare above their own. Providing assistance to aid them and their loved ones in the event of a catastrophic illness is one way to show appreciation for the risks they take every day. Any first responder suffering from a serious illness or the loved one of such a victim may wish to consult with a professional regarding the possibility of obtaining workers' compensation coverage.

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