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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

NJ Commissioner of Labor Adopts Rules for Emergent Medical Motions in Workers Compensation Matters

David J. Socolow, Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development, on September 3, 2009, formally adopted the pending Rules for Emergent Medical Motions. The new Rules became effective on Monday, October 5, 2009 and a notice published in the NJ Register on that date, 41 NJ Register 3807(a).

A public hearing concerning the pending Rules was held on June 2, 2009 and there were no attendees. A written comment was submitted by Kenneth A. Stoller, Senior Counsel, American Insurance Association, Washington, DC. One comment concerned the assessment of fines against an insurance carrier for activities of the employer. The Department declined to modify the pending Rules, but stated, “…the insurance carrier would not be fined or penalized where it is in no way culpable for the violation.”

A typographical correction was recognized. “Upon review, the Department has noticed a typographical error, which it would like to correct through a change on adoption. Specifically, the reference within proposed N.J.A.C. 12:235-3.3(r) to, "the decision and order rendered under (o) above," should read, "the decision and order rendered under (q) above..." Consequently, the Department is substituting "(q)" for "(o)" within N.J.A.C. 12:235-3.3(r).

The Honorable Peter J. Calderone, Director and Chief Judge of the Division, will discuss the new Rules in an upcoming academic seminar sponsored by the NJ Institute for Continuing Legal Education on Wednesday, October 7, 2009.

………

The Rules:

12:235-3.2 General motions for temporary disability and/or medical benefits

(a)-(i) (No change.)

12:235-3.3 Motions for emergent medical care pursuant to N.J.S.A. 34:15-15.3

(a) With or after the filing of a claim petition, a petitioner may file a motion for emergent medical care directly with the district office to which the petition is or will be assigned (See N.J.A.C. 12:235-3.1 for claim petition filing and assignment).

(b) The notice of motion for emergent medical care shall be on a form prescribed by the Division and shall contain or be accompanied by the following:

1. A statement by the petitioner or the petitioner's attorney of the specific request(s) for medical treatment made by the petitioner or the petitioner's attorney to the employer and/or the employer's insurance carrier, including the name of the person(s) to whom the request(s) was/were made;

2. Medical documentation, including a statement by a physician indicating that the petitioner is in need of emergent medical care, that the delay in treatment will result in irreparable harm or damage to the petitioner and the specific nature of the irreparable harm or damage;

3. All medical records relating to the requested medical care, which are in the possession of the petitioner or the petitioner's attorney;

4. Copies of the claim petition and answer.

i. If no answer to the claim petition has been filed, the notice of motion shall include the following information if known by the petitioner: the telephone number and the fax number of the employer, the name of the employer's workers' compensation insurance carrier and the insurance carrier or self-insured employer contact person's telephone number and fax number, as required to be maintained under N.J.A.C. 12:235-3.4; and

5. Proof of service under (c), (d) and (e) below.

(c) Where an answer to the claim petition has been filed by the respondent, the notice of motion and supporting papers shall be served on respondent's attorney by fax and by a one-day delivery service.

(d) Where no answer to the claim petition has been filed by the respondent, the notice of motion and supporting papers shall be served on the employer and, if known by the petitioner, upon the employer's insurance carrier.

1. Service on the employer under this subsection shall be either by personal service or by fax and a one-day delivery service.

2. Service on the insurance carrier under this subsection shall be by fax and a one-day delivery service to the contact person listed pursuant to N.J.A.C. 12:235-3.4.

(e) Where the employer is uninsured or where the employer's insurer is not known by the petitioner, the notice of motion and supporting papers shall, in addition to the requirements under (c) or (d) above, be served on the Uninsured Employer's Fund by fax and by a one-day delivery service.

(f) The date of the personal service, the date of the fax service or the date of receipt of the one-day delivery service, whichever is latest, shall be considered the date of service under (c), (d) and (e) above.

(g) No later than five calendar days after receiving service of the petitioner's notice of motion for emergent medical care, the respondent shall file with the district office an answer to the motion.

(h) Within 15 calendar days after the petitioner has served the notice of motion for emergent medical care upon the appropriate party or parties under (c), (d) and (e) above, the employer or the employer's insurance carrier may have a medical examination of petitioner conducted.

(i) The petitioner is required to attend and cooperate with the medical examination process under (h) above.

(j) Motions for emergent medical care shall take precedence over all other court listings.

(k) The judge should use telephone conferences and afternoon hearings, as appropriate, to expedite the disposition of motions for emergent medical care and to avoid as much as possible the disruption of other court proceedings.

(l) Within five calendar days of the filing of an answer by respondent or, if no answer has been filed, within five calendar days from the date an answer should have been filed, an initial conference on the motion for emergent medical care shall take place.

(m) The district office shall provide notice of the initial conference to the following parties under the following circumstances:

1. Where an answer to the notice of motion for emergent medical care has been filed, the district office shall provide notice of the initial conference by telephone and fax to the petitioner's attorney or petitioner pro se and to the answering party using the telephone numbers and fax numbers indicated in the notice of motion for emergent medical care and the answer, respectively;

2. Where an answer to the notice of motion for emergent medical care has not been filed and where the employer is insured, the district office shall provide notice of the initial conference by telephone and fax to the employer and to the insurance carrier contact person listed in the notice of motion for emergent medical care; or

3. Where an answer to the notice of motion for emergent medical care has not been filed and where the employer is not insured or the insurer is not known, the district office shall provide notice of the initial conference by telephone and fax to the employer and to the Uninsured Employer's Fund.

(n) If the motion for emergent medical care has not been resolved at the initial conference and the employer or the employer's insurance carrier has not requested a medical examination of the petitioner under (h) above, the judge shall hold a hearing on the merits of the motion for emergent medical care as soon as is practicable, but no later than five calendar days from the date of the initial conference.

(o) If the motion for emergent medical care has not been resolved at the initial conference and the employer or employer's insurance carrier has requested a medical examination of the petitioner under (h) above, the judge shall hold a hearing on the merits of the motion for emergent medical care as soon as is practicable after the medical examination of the petitioner, but no later than five calendar days from the date of the medical examination of the petitioner.

(p) With regard to the hearing on the merits of the motion for emergent medical care, the judge may require a continuous trial or may use other procedures to ensure that the motion is expeditiously heard.

(q) The judge hearing the motion for emergent medical care shall render a decision and issue an order on the motion within one business day of the conclusion of the trial testimony.

(r) The judge may supplement the decision and order rendered under(q)above at a later date.

(s) If a motion for emergent medical care does not meet the requirements under this section, but does meet the requirements for a general motion for temporary and/or medical benefits under N.J.A.C. 12:235-3.3, the motion shall be listed and proceed as a general motion for temporary and/or medical benefits.

12:235-3.4 Insurance carrier or self-insured employer contact person procedures pursuant to N.J.S.A. 34:15-15.4

(a) Every insurance carrier providing workers' compensation insurance and every workers' compensation self-insured employer shall designate a contact person who is responsible for responding to issues concerning medical and temporary disability benefits where no claim petition has been filed or where a claim petition has not been answered.

(b) The contact person referred to in (a) above shall also receive notice of motions for emergent medical care under N.J.A.C. 12:235-3.3.

(c) The full name, telephone number, mailing address, e-mail address and fax number of the contact person referred to in (a) above shall be submitted to the Division utilizing the Division's contact person form in the manner instructed on the form.

(d) The Division's contact person form shall be made available on the Division's website and at the Division's district offices.

(e) Any changes of contact person or in information about the contact person shall be immediately submitted to the Division using the Division's contact person form.

(f) After an answer to a claim petition has been filed, the attorney of record for the respondent shall be the point of contact for issues concerning temporary disability and/or medical benefits.

(g) A contact person roster using the information provided under (c) above will be available on the Division's website.

(h) Failure to comply with the requirements of N.J.S.A. 34:15-15.4 or this section shall result in a fine of $2,500 for each day of noncompliance, which fine shall be payable to the Second Injury Fund.

1. The Division shall send notice of noncompliance and of the fine amount by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the business address of the insurance carrier or self-insured employer.

2. The insurance carrier or self-insured employer shall have 30 calendar days to pay the fine or to contest the fine.

3. Where the insurance carrier or self-insured employer contests the fine, the Division shall hold a conference in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

Recodify existing N.J.A.C. 12:235-3.3 through 3.13 as 3.5 through 3.15 (No change in text.)

12:235-3.16 Enforcement

(a) A party may, by written motion pursuant to N.J.A.C. 12:235-3.5(a) and (b), move against an employer, insurance carrier, petitioner, case attorney or any other party to a claim petition for enforcement of any court order or for the enforcement of the requirements of the workers' compensation statute or rules.

(b) The motion under (a) above shall identify the order, statute or regulation sought to be enforced.

(c) The party against whom the motion has been brought shall file a written response to the motion within 14 calendar days of the notice of motion.

(d) The response under (c) above shall include the reasons for any noncompliance and the manner and time period to ensure compliance.

(e) Any time after the 14-day period to respond under (c) above has elapsed and on notice to the parties, the judge shall hold a hearing on the motion.

(f) A judge on his or her own motion may at any time, upon notice to the affected parties, move to enforce a court order or to enforce the requirements of the workers' compensation statute or rules.

(g) Prior to ruling on a motion under (f) above, the judge shall provide the parties an opportunity to respond to the motion and to be heard on the record.

(h) Upon a finding by a judge of noncompliance with a court order or the workers' compensation statute or rules, the judge, in addition to any other remedy provided by law, may take any or all of the following actions:

1. Impose costs and simple interest on any monies due.

i. The judge may impose an additional assessment not to exceed 25 percent on any moneys due if the judge finds the payment delay to be unreasonable;

2. Levy fines or other penalties on parties or case attorneys in an amount not to exceed $5,000 for unreasonable delay or continued noncompliance.

i. A fine shall be imposed by the judge as a form of pecuniary punishment.

ii. A penalty shall be imposed by the judge to reimburse the Division's administrative costs.

iii. The proceeds under this paragraph shall be paid into the Second Injury Fund;

3. Close proofs, dismiss a claim or suppress a defense as to any party;

4. Exclude evidence or witnesses;

5. Take other appropriate case-related action to ensure compliance; and/or

6. Allow a reasonable counsel fee to a prevailing party, where supported by an affidavit of services.

(i) Upon a finding by a judge of noncompliance by a party with a court order or the workers' compensation law or rules, the judge, in addition to any other remedy provided by law, may hold a separate hearing on the issue of contempt.

(j) Following a hearing under (i) above and upon a finding by the judge of contempt, the successful party in the contempt hearing or the judge may file a motion with the Superior Court for contempt action.

(k) Any fine, penalty, assessment or cost imposed by a judge under this section shall be paid by the entity or party found to be in noncompliance and shall not be included in the expense base of an insurance carrier for the purpose of determining rates or as a reimbursement or case expense.

Recodify existing N.J.A.C. 12:235-3.15 and 3.16 as 3.17 and 3.18 (No change in text.)

SUBCHAPTER 7. UNINSURED EMPLOYER'S FUND

12:235-7.1 Purpose; scope

(a)-(d) (No change.)

(e) A petitioner may move to relax or dispense with requirements under this subchapter.

1. After a hearing on the motion to relax or dispense with requirements under this subchapter, the judge may grant the motion upon a finding that the subject requirements under the particular facts of the case are unduly burdensome and that grant of the motion would not adversely affect the UEF.

(f) Where petitioner seeks current medical treatment and/or temporary disability benefits and the only issue is the cancellation or non-renewal of an insurance policy, the judge may order the insurance carrier to provide treatment and/or benefits without prejudice and subject to reimbursement by the employer or, if not paid by the employer, by the UEF, if it is subsequently determined that the policy was not in effect.

(g) (No change in text.)

12:235-7.4 Medical bills; physician's examination

(a) Any medical bills or charges for which petitioner seeks payment from the UEF must be timely submitted by the petitioner to the UEF and be supported by the following:

1. Related treating records, itemized bills and a physician's report, which reflects that the bills and charges were reasonable, necessary and causally related to the work accident or occupational exposure alleged in the claim petition; and

2. Other necessary medical documentation or information required by the UEF.

(b) Any dispute under this section concerning the treating records, bills, physician's report or UEF request for other medical documentation or information shall be determined by the judge after a hearing upon oral or written motion by the UEF or another party.

Recodify existing (b)-(e) as (c)-(f) (No change in text.)

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