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Saturday, February 21, 2015

NJ To Consolidate Workers' Compensation Hearing Offices

The State of NJ is planning to close local hearing offices according to a letter published in a local periodical. Consolidation from local to regional hearing offices for economic reasons is a trend that has occurred throughout the US and was previously initiated in NJ during the 1970s.

Like other industrial states, NJ has suffered terribly from the economic consequences of the loss of its manufacturing base. Additionally, NJ population has shifted and the service industries are generating more claims in the southern tier of the state.

Even though the NJ Division of Workers' Compensation is funded from insurance premiums through charges directly to employers (Second Injury Fund costs), the increased operational expenses remain a burden upon all who work in the state. Consolidation represents a balancing of interests to meet present realistic demands..

For the most part, statistical transparency in NJ is lacking as to docket loads and disposition rates. Some states, like Florida, publicly disseminate that data, making comparison and analysis open for review. NJ does not publicly publish regional, or hearing officer statistical disposition data.

Ironically, NJ Workers Compensation Director & Chief Judge Peter Calderone announced that he will retire March 1, 2015. It was also announced that NJ Labor Commissioner Wirths will appoint Judge Russell Wojtenko as the new Director & Chief Judge of the NJ Division of Workers' Compensation.

While lawsuits have been filed in the past by claimants attorneys, and by local county bar associations, regarding locations of hearing offices in the State of NJ, the outcomes have not been successful.