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Thursday, April 9, 2020

NJ Workers’ Compensation and the New Virtual Reality

The COVID-19 pandemic has abruptly changed how hearings will conducted before the NJ Division of Workers Compensation [Division]. In light of State of Emergency Orders announced by NJ Gov. Pat Murphy that mandate social distancing and restricted travel, the DIvision has embarked upon limited virtual hearings.

The Division announced on April 8, 2020 in a Notice to the Bar, that:

“All Administrative Supervisory Judges and Supervising Judges shall continue to be designated by the N.J. Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the N.J. Division of Workers’ Compensation as essential personnel and shall hear as many Workers’ Compensation matters as possible in their home vicinage by telephonic conferencing, and if possible by video conferencing, including all emergent matters and the following non- emergent matters, pre-trial conferences, general motions for medical and temporary benefits, and settlements by affidavit.

“There will be no in-person Workers’ Compensation Court proceedings (except for extremely limited emergent matters and certain ongoing motions for medical and temporary benefits and trials, in which case social distancing will be enforced).

The Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims and Division of Administrative Hearings, has established rules to operate a model virtual system to remotely swear in witnesses. The Hon. David Langham the Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation has posted an outline of the procedure utilized in Florida that permits that system to operate efficiently and effectively.

NJ is going in the right direction to service the citizens and employers of the State of New Jersey. It needs to take the next step forward, including adopting rules, to allow full plenary hearings, including actual testimony to proceed, as we enter the new virtual reality of workers’ compensation.

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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 jon@gelmans.com has been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

Blog: Workers ' Compensation
Twitter: jongelman
LinkedIn: JonGelman
LinkedIn Group: Injured Workers Law & Advocacy Group
Author: "Workers' Compensation Law" West-Thomson-Reuters