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New Jersey workers' comp bill would extend benefits to widows

Workers' compensation benefits in New Jersey may soon change if a proposed bill is signed by the governor. The bill, already approved by both the House and Senate, would extend workers' compensation benefits to widows or widowers of emergency personnel workers.

The bill would let spouses of police, firefighters and emergency workers who died on the job to receive workers' compensation benefits on behalf of their spouse even if they get remarried. The proposed law would significantly change the way and how much widows and widowers are awarded workers' compensation benefits.

Under current New Jersey law, individuals who remarry within 10 years of their spouse's death receive a lump sum that is the equal to 100 times the average weekly compensation payment they would receive before getting remarried. Spouses who do not remarry currently receive on average $1.85 million in payments during their lifetime.

The bill would change this by allowing spouses to collect workers' compensation benefits until they pass away, regardless of whether or not they get remarried.

While there is a lot of support for the bill, some cities are worried about the anticipated costs of allowing spouses to collect benefits for the rest of their lives. Supporters of the bill said that there would not be any additional costs for the new bill, but it is unclear about the true fiscal impact allowing workers' compensation benefits to continue would have on many New Jersey municipalities.

Reports show that over 60 percent of local governments in New Jersey cover the cost of workers' compensation claims through the Municipal Excess Liability Joint Insurance Fund. Many cities are worried about the impact the bill would have on the cost of workers' compensation claims in the future and some are trying to pass resolutions to oppose the bill.

If the governor does sign the bill into law, workers' compensation payments would significantly change for widows and widowers in New Jersey.

Source: South Jersey Times, "Workers' Compensation bill creates tension between municipalities and state legislators," Phil Davis, May 30, 2013