Better protections in place for NJ fire fighters who suffer fatal heart attacks or strokes

January 19 • 2024

Bill unanimously passed in the Senate

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, with the strong support of the Professional Fire Fighters Association of New Jersey (PFANJ), signed legislation into law extending workers’ compensation coverage for fire fighters, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and paramedics who suffer fatal cardiac events or strokes. 

“With the signing of this legislation, we have ensured our families will no longer have to fight for the benefits they need during their time of mourning,” PFANJ President Matthew Caliente said in a statement.  

The PFANJ worked tirelessly with state legislators to draft this legislation and lobby for its passage. 

Until now, the families of fire fighters, EMTs, and paramedics who died from a heart attack or stroke would only be automatically eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if the event occurred on shift. Otherwise, families would have the burden of proving their fallen loved one’s death was job-related to receive benefits. 

Many families, like the Padilla family, would find themselves fighting for weeks, months, or even years for benefits. Newark Local 71 member Rafael Padilla died of a heart attack a few hours after he got off shift last year. 

Legislation received full support from the House

“The work of fire fighters, EMTs, and paramedics is physical in nature and when you add the emotional and environmental stressors that we bring home after our shift, our bodies are negatively impacted hours and days after the response is over,” Caliente said. 

The new law not only expands the scope of workers’ compensation coverage to include a period of up to 24 hours after a shift but also establishes a presumption that the medical event is a direct result of the work fire fighters, EMTs, and paramedics do. 

The law takes effect immediately and will cover all cases left pending.