In a concerted attempt to overhaul the state’s workers’ compensation system for the first time in decades, the State’s Senate and Assembly overwhelmingly approved a package of workers’ compensation reform bills on June 23 (S1913, S1914, S1915, S1916, S1917 and S1918), which now will go to Governor Corzine for his consideration.
If passed, S1913 would increase the power of judges of compensation to enforce the state’s workers’ compensation law, by providing them the authority to impose costs, interest, attorneys’ fees and other fines, to exclude witnesses, to hold hearings on contempt proceedings, and to dismiss claims and suppress defenses, if warranted.
S1914 would increase the criminal penalties for employers that fail to provide workers’ compensation coverage, from a disorderly persons offense to a crime of the fourth degree (and to a crime in the third degree if the employer’s failure was knowing).
S1915 would require all employers required to submit an annual report to also include in that report valid proof of workers’ compensation coverage (i.e., either documentation from the Commissioner of Banking authorizing the employer to be self-insured, or a letter from an insurance carrier or verification of the name of the carrier, insurance policy number and date the policy coverage commenced).
S1916 would provide that when a physician states a worker is in need of emergent medical care not being provided or authorized by the employer, the worker may file a motion for emergent medical treatment. The employer would have to answer the motion within five calendar days, and an initial conference would take place within five days of that answer. The employer also would have 15 days after receipt of the motion to schedule its own medical examination.
S1917 would mandate that the Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau (which is responsible for maintaining rules, regulations and premium rates for workers’ compensation and employer’s liability insurance) be reformed to include on its governing committee, for the first time, directors who do not represent member insurers, but rather a licensed insurance producer; a representative of business; and a representative of labor.
Finally, S1918 would authorize the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute cases of failure to provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage after the employer has been given a reasonable opportunity to obtain that coverage.
Note: This article was published in the July 2008 issue of the New Jersey eAuthority.