Important workers’ compensation legislation is quickly advancing as the current 2018-2019 legislative session comes to a close. A bill increasing the recovery for injuries to hands and feet, also also embodies a significant requirement that the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development study, on an ongoing basis, the effectiveness of the State’s workers’ compensation program.
The long sought after legislation, in the Assembly A1110 and the companion bill in the Senate S742, has recently gained momentum. The Senate bill was passed on December 17, 2018 with a majority of: Yes 27, No 8, Not Voting 5. The Assembly bill , on December 9, 2019, was referred out of the Assembly Labor Committee to the Assembly Appropriations Committee with a majority vote of: es 6, No 2, Not Voting 1. The Appropriations Committee is scheduled to review the bill on December 16, 2019.
For the loss of a thumb, the award of workers’ compensation shall be calculated based on a maximum of 80 weeks of compensation; 2. For the loss of a first finger (index finger), the award of workers’ compensation shall be calculated based on a maximum of 60 weeks of compensation;
2. For the loss of a second finger, the award of workers’ compensation shall be calculated based on a maximum of 50 weeks of compensation;
3. For the loss of a third finger, the award of workers’ compensation shall be calculated based on a maximum of 40 weeks of compensation;
5. For the loss of a fourth finger (little finger), the award of workers’ compensation shall be calculated based on a maximum of 30 weeks of compensation;
6. For the loss of a hand, the award of workers’ compensation shall be calculated based on a maximum of 260 weeks of compensation;
7. If a loss of function of a hand is determined to be a 25% or more loss of use, the award of workers’ compensation shall be calculated based on a maximum of 300 weeks of compensation for a 100% loss of function;
8. For the loss of a foot, the award of workers’ compensation shall be calculated based on a maximum of 250 weeks of compensation; and
9. If a loss of function of a foot is determined to be a 25% or more loss of use, the award of workers’ compensation shall be calculated based on a maximum of 285 weeks of compensation for a 100% loss of function.
The bill prohibits an award of permanent total disability from barring an additional award for certain amputations, and provides the amount of the additional reward is not subject to subrogation, as it is not considered to be a payment of compensation except for rating purposes.
Under current law, in the case of the death of a person receiving payments for permanent injury, from any cause other than the accident or occupational disease, the remaining payments are required to be paid to the deceased person’s dependents or, if no dependents, the remaining amount due, but not exceeding $3,500, is required to be paid in a lump sum to the proper person for burial and funeral expenses. The bill increases the maximum amount payable for burial and funeral expenses from $3,500 to $5,000.
The bill also requires the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development to study, in consultation with the Commissioner of Banking and Insurance, the State’s workers’ compensation system and make recommendations that will help foster and maintain an efficient, effective and well-balanced workers’ compensation program that is equally responsive to the needs of both the State’s workforce and the employer community. The commissioner will submit a study, with recommendations, to the Governor and the Legislature not later than one year after the effective date of this bill and every five years thereafter.
It has been a very active season for workers’ compensation legislation in NJ already:
"Thomas P. Canzanella Twenty First Century First Responders Protection Act"; concerns workers' compensation for public safety workers. Enacted 7/8/2019, P.L. 2019 c.156
Concerns attorney fees for workers' compensation awards. 8/24/2019 P.L. 2018 c.105
Concerns certain workers' compensation supplemental benefits. 6/17/2019, P.L. 2019 c.127
End of Life Protocols. 8/9/2019, P.L. 2019 c,218
Actively Pending Legislation:
Concerns disputed medical fees in workers' compensation claims. A3635, S1967.
Concerns workers' compensation insurance requirements for certain corporations and partnerships. A3357, S2345.
Creates rebuttable presumption in workers' compensation cases of respiratory disease of casino employees working in smoking areas. A4764, S3230.
Establishes system for portable benefits for workers who provide services to consumers through contracting agents )independent contractors). A3824, S67.
Excludes certain illegal aliens from workers' compensation and temporary disability benefits. A940, S304.
Prevents intoxicated employees from receiving workers' compensation. A926, S1420.
Prohibits medical providers from reporting certain workers' compensation medical charges to collection and credit reporting agencies. A1697, S3036.
Removes limitations on expenses of suit and attorneys' fees from third party liability claims in workers' compensation cases. A4813.
Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman 1.973.696.7900 firstname.lastname@example.org has been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.