Recent public scrutiny over the present workers' compensation system has spurred the New Jersey State Senate to pass a bill amending key provisions in the Garden State’s Workers’ Compensation Act (N.J.S.A. 34:15-1 et. seq.).
The new proposed legislation governs the practice of emergent Motions filed for medical treatment. By way of highlight, if a Motion for Medical Treatment is accompanied by medical documentation from a physician indicating that a delay of treatment shall result in “irreparable harm”, then an Answer to the Motion shall be due five (5) days from the date of service (the existing law provides for a twenty-one (21) day response period). “Irreparable harm” has not been defined in the proposed law. Thereafter, an initial conference with the Court shall be scheduled within five (5) days of the filing of the Answer (presently, such conference does not take place inside of thirty (30) days). Of equal importance, the Employer will have only fifteen (15) days from the date of service to secure a medical examination (the existing law provides for thirty-five (35) days). Notably, the rule makes no mention of Motions requesting temporary disability benefits.
Further, the proposed law requires the carrier and self-insured employer designate a specific person to receive service and respond to all issues pertaining to Motions for medical and temporary disability benefits. The employer must provide the contact person’s full name, telephone number, address, e-mail address, and fax number to the WC Division. Failure to comply with the provisions within the proscribed period of time shall result in a fine of $2,500.00 for each day of noncompliance.
What It Means to You
The passage of the proposed bill into law (expected in a few weeks time) is likely to result in a surge in the filing of Motions. Compliant Motion practice will be made extremely difficult due to the strict timing requirements noted above. In an effort to prepare for the law’s inevitable enactment, it is imperative that employers, carriers, and third party administrators alike think about which individual should be designated as the contact, as well as begin to coordinate with defense counsel to develop protocols to effectively comply with these requirements. Although compliance will be a Herculean task, it will be nonetheless required. Our office shall keep you apprised of the law’s enactment, as well as update you on any changes along the way. Should you have any questions or concerns in the interim, please do not hesitate to contact Mr. DiCarlo in our New Jersey office at 856-761-3800, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org