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August 16, 2012

Re:      BILLS ENACTED BY GOVERNOR
            I.   Accident Victims Privacy Protections (S-199/A-789)
            II.  Appointments of Unemployed Federal Firefighters to Local Fire Departments (S-965/A-2375)

Dear Mayor:

Governor Christie recently signed into law a pair of bills that will have implications for municipal emergency services operations.

I.          ACCIDENT VICTIMS PRIVACY PROTECTIONS

On Tuesday, August 7, the Governor signed S-199/A-789. This new statute (P.L. 2012, c. 28) will protect the privacy of accident victims and other persons receiving emergency medical services from first responders.

This bill provides that any first responder who makes photographs, electronic images or a video recording of an accident victim, or other person receiving emergency medical services, available to the public, through any means, without the prior written consent of the accident victim or person receiving emergency medical services, or the victim’s or person’s next-of-kin if the victim or person cannot provide consent, is guilty of a disorderly persons offense.  A disorderly offense is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, six months in prison or both.  In addition, to any other right of action or recovery otherwise available under the laws of this State, a first responder who knowingly violates this law shall be liable to the person whose image was taken or disclosed, who may bring a civil action in the Superior Court. The court may award:  (1) actual damages, but not less than liquidated damages computed at the rate of $1,000 for each violation of this act; (2) punitive damages upon proof of willful or reckless disregard of the law; (3) reasonable attorney’s fees and other litigation costs reasonably incurred; and (4) such other preliminary and equitable relief as the court determines to be appropriate.  The bill allows the disclosure for legitimate law enforcement, public safety, health care, insurance purpose or by a court order.

In addition, the bill prohibits a first responder, who is dispatched to or is otherwise present at the scene of a motor vehicle accident or other emergency situation, for the purpose of providing medical care or other assistance, from photographing, filming, videotaping, recording, or otherwise reproduce in any manner, the image of a person being provided medical care or other assistance, except in accordance with applicable rules, regulations, or operating procedures of the agency employing the first responder.

The bill defines a “first responder” as a law enforcement officer, paid or volunteer firefighter, paid or volunteer member of a duly incorporated first aid, emergency, ambulance or rescue squad association or any other individual who, in the course of his employment, is dispatched to the scene of a motor vehicle accident or other emergency situation for the purpose of providing medical care or other assistance.  

We believe this is a simple matter of common sense and common decency. The bill will still provide for the ability for our first responders to learn from accident and medical scenes but will protect the privacy of the victims. We salute the sponsor for advancing this bill. And we commend the Legislature and the Governor for their swift and favorable action.

This law took effect on August 7, 2012.

II.        ALLOWS APPOINTMENT OF UNEMPLOYED FEDERAL FIREFIGHTER TO LOCAL DEPARTMENTS AND COMPANIES

On that same date, the Governor signed into law S-965/A-2375. This new law (P.L. 2012, c. 33) will permit a municipality or fire district to appoint as a firefighter, irrespective of Civil Service rules, a civilian federal firefighter who lost his or her position as the result of a reduction in force or the termination of the firefighter’s position at a federal military installation.

Under current law, a municipality may hire a civilian federal firefighter, without utilizing any civil service lists, only if the military installation has been closed. This bill would extend this hiring preference to firefighters who are unemployed as a result of a reduction in force or elimination of the firefighter’s position.

Current law requires the Civil Service Commission to prepare and circulate to municipalities and fire districts a list of the civilian federal firefighters eligible for appointment to a local fire department.

This law took effect on August 7, 2012.

If you have any question, contact Jon Moran at 609-695-3481, ext. 121 or jmoran@njslom.com

Very truly yours,

 

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

 

 

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