New Jersey Senate Fails to Revive First Responders Workers Comp Bill

Workers Comp BillAfter Veto by Governor Chris Christie, NJ Senate Cannot Bring Back Workers Comp Bill

The Thomas P. Canzanella Bill, aka S1778, was vetoed by Governor Chris Christie in July. Now, officially, the New Jersey Senate has failed to revive the workers comp bill that would expand the ability to apply for benefits for first responders.

The bill was named for Thomas P. Canzanella, a firefighter from Hackensack who spent several weeks at Ground Zero after 9/11. He championed workers comp coverage for occupational diseases endemic to first responders like firefighters and ambulance drivers, who often suffer from cancer and other chronic illnesses later in life.

The proposed bill would have made it easier for New Jersey first responders to obtain workers comp coverage when they become injured or contract a disease on the job during a terrorist attack or another catastrophic event. The bill would have required the employer to challenge work-related injuries and illness claims, which shifts the workers comp burden of proof away from injured or ill nurses, police officers, firefighters, rescue squad members, and ambulance drivers, among many types of first responders.

The current system in New Jersey, as with much of the rest of the country, currently requires that anyone who becomes ill or injured while on the job must prove, during their workers compclaim, how and when they became injured or sick.

S1778, however, provided that wages and medical benefits would be paid if “any death or disability, including post traumatic stress disorder, arises from the physical or psychological impact of stress or injury experienced by the public safety worker during response to a terrorist attack, epidemic or other catastrophic emergency,” according to the bill sponsored by Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex).

However, Governor Christie vetoed the workers comp bill last month due to budgetary concerns.

“The costs associated with the injuries those duties may cause must be administered in a responsible manner that matches our public resources,” Christie said in a statement when he vetoed the bill a month ago. “Although this measure would likely have a significant impact on State, local, and municipal government budgets, the bill’s sponsors refused to obtain a fiscal analysis or refer the bill to either house’s respective budget committees.”

He added that the current workers comp system “appropriately balances all facts necessary to determine a proper compensation award … In contrast, this bill alters that careful balance by providing public safety workers with a presumption to workers’ compensation, rebuttable only by clear and convincing evidence.”

The New Jersey Senate session on Monday, August 19th, required 27 of 40 votes to overturn Governor Christie’s veto. However, the bill gained only 22 votes, and 13 senators specifically said no to the workers  comp legislation.

The workers compensation system is far from fair, said Dominick Marino, president of the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey. “A firefighter who is on the job 20 years would have to say where and when he contracted the cancer, and there no way to do that — the city, municipality, employers — they have all records. It’s a long, drawn-out battle.”

The bill was originally introduced during the 2006-07 legislative session. However, this current year was the first time it passed both houses.

The Strom Law Firm Can Help with Workers Comp Claims in South Carolina

Whether your case involves obtaining benefits for a denied workers comp claim, helping you obtain medical treatment, negotiating a fair and equitable settlement for your on-the-job injury, or even pursing a claim against a third party who caused and/or contributed to your workplace injury, the workers compensation lawyers at the Strom Law Firm, LLC represent injured workers at all stages of the workers compensation claim process, including initial hearings and appellate proceedings. The most important thing you need to focus on is a speedy recovery. You need an advocate who will seek justice on your behalf. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss the facts of your workers comp case. 803.252.4800