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December 21, 2008

Major Changes In Store For The New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act

We first reported in the July, 2008 issue of “The C&W Journal” that recent public scrutiny had spurred the New Jersey State Senate to pass bills amending key provisions in the Garden State’s Workers’ Compensation Act (N.J.S.A. 34:15-1 et. seq.). As expected, Governor Jon S. Corzine signed those bills into law, effective October 1, 2008.

The new law 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 within five (5) calendar days (the prior law provided for a twenty-one (21) day response period). “Irreparable harm” has not been defined in the new law. Thereafter, an initial conference with the Court shall be scheduled within five (5) days of the filing of the Answer (previously, such conference did 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 prior law provided for thirty-five (35) days). Notably, the rule makes no mention of Motions requesting temporary disability benefits.

Further, the new 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

Though we have not yet seen any surge in the filing of such Motions, the enactment of the new law may still have that effect as practitioners acclimate themselves to the changes. Compliant Motion practice has been made extremely difficult due to the strict timing requirements noted above. Therefore, it is imperative that employers, carriers, and third party administrators alike designate an individual as their contact, as well as coordinate with defense counsel to develop protocols to effectively comply with these requirements. Although compliance can be a Herculean task, it is nonetheless required. Should you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact Mr. DiCarlo in our New Jersey office at 856-761-3800 or via e-mail at gdicarlo@c-wlaw.com.
 

Sources

N.J.S.A. 34:15-1 et. seq.