An employee seeking to be compensated for work-related injuries or diseases must often overcome a number of dizzying hurdles. Access to workers compensation is not always a simple matter. But a new bill under consideration in the New Jersey Assembly seeks to make the process somewhat easier for a certain segment of our population.
The proposed law, No. 1196, creates new “presumptions” in the law for public safety workers seeking compensation for cancers and other medical conditions.
A “presumption” is lawyer-speak for an automatic assumption the law makes about a particular person or situation – an assumption that, unless proved otherwise, might as well be the truth.
Here, for example, this new law creates a presumption that requires that the law view “[a]ny injury, illness or death of a firefighter which may be caused by cancer, including leukemia, [as] presumed to be an occupational disease compensable…if the firefighter has completed not less than five years of services as a firefighter.”
Meaning, as long as the firefighter has worked at least five years on the job, any cancer-based injury or disease is automatically assumed to have been caused by the job. And it therefore falls within the umbrella of workers’ compensation laws.
Employers can disprove the assumption, or “rebut the presumption.” But the standard of proof required by the law – by a trickier-than-it-sounds showing of “clear and convincing evidence” to the contrary – will make it very difficult to do so. This is the only place in all of the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act that “clear and convincing” evidence would be required by employers to prove that an employee does not deserve the claimed amount.
Is this new law a boon to plaintiff employees seeking compensation? Quite possibly. Is it a burden on employers? Yes. Is it still too early to discern the actual impact it could have on workers’ compensation – from premium costs to benefits? Absolutely.
For more information, see the proposed law itself (found here: http://legiscan.com/NJ/text/A1196), or a recent examination of it here: http://www.njworkerscompblog.com/controversial-first-responder-bill-would-create-various-presumptions-in-favor-of-compensability/.