Those who participated in rescue, recovery, and cleanup operations have legal rights
Twenty-one years after the September 11th terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, some New York workers and their families are still dealing with the health consequences of that tragic day.
In particular, many of the 9/11 rescue and recovery workers were exposed to dust clouds and subsequently developed respiratory and pulmonary diseases. Unfortunately, some of those workers were later denied workers’ compensation benefits for the illnesses they contracted at Ground Zero.
Just before the 21st anniversary of the attack, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law several bills to support 9/11 victims, first responders, and their loved ones. Among those bills was S.9370/A.9922A, which amends the Workers’ Compensation Act to help rescue, recovery and clean-up workers qualify for workers’ compensation.
What the new law for 9/11 rescue and recovery workers does
For those who participated in rescue, recovery, and cleanup operations at the World Trade Center, the new law creates a legal presumption that certified illnesses as defined by the CDC’s World Trade Center Health Program are work-related. Such illnesses include but are not limited to:
- Asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), sleep apnea, and other aerodigestive disorders.
- Many types of cancer, including lymphoma, myeloma, leukemia, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, and mesothelioma.
- Mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
This law applies to former rescue, recovery, and cleanup workers who have certified illnesses, as well as family members of workers who died of a certified illness. In addition, the new law creates a two-year window for workers who were previously denied workers’ compensation to file new claims.
This doesn’t mean that all workers’ compensation claims for certified illnesses will be automatically approved. It means that for 9/11 rescue, recovery, and cleanup workers, the law presumes the certified illnesses are work-related, and the burden of proof is on the insurance company to show that your illness was not work-related if they want to deny your claim on that basis.
Another new law helps disabled victims of 9/11-related illnesses
Another bill signed into law by Gov. Hochul, S.9294A/A.10416, extends the deadline to file a Notice of Participation under World Trade Center disability law. This new law allows rescue, recovery and cleanup workers who became disabled by a qualifying World Trade Center condition between September 11, 2017 and September 11, 2021 to file a claim for workers’ compensation disability benefits between now and September 11, 2026. Again, this law allows claimants whose claims were previously denied the right to file a claim again.
Talk to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney about your rights
We applaud the efforts of the State of New York to continue to do right by the people who sacrificed so much on that tragic day. We also recognize that navigating the legal system can be confusing for injured workers. That’s why we are proud to do our part to guide claimants through the legal process based on the most up-to-date laws.
If you became ill after participating in World Trade Center rescue, recovery, and cleanup efforts, or lost a loved one to a World Trade Center illness, we would be honored to listen to your story and explain your legal rights. Contact Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP today for a free, confidential consultation.