In the first weeks of the New Year, NJ Governor Chris Christie has just issued vetoes for two major workers compensation bills, which were widely supported by the petitioner’s bar, while being opposed by employers and insurance carriers. Sponsored by attorneys for injured workers, the legislation was aimed at updating legislation that, for decades, employers have used to avoid paying counsel fees on the offered amount if made within 26 weeks of return to work or maximal medical improvement.
The Current Law: As it now stands, NJSA 34:15-64 provides for the employers and injured worker to not have to pay counsel fees to attorneys if the employer made a voluntary offer of permanency to the worker within twenty six weeks of return to work. With the provision, employers are encouraged to make permanency offers far before the end of the case, which wraps the matter up quickly and provide savings for both parties.
The Rejected Bills: The two bills just vetoed by Governor Christie, S-374/A-3403 were pushed by attorneys to get rid of the employers benefit to augment their legal fees. It would additionally mean that the workers who were injured would also need to pay more, which was a major source of opposition by those criticizing the bill. The two bills additionally had some provisions that would benefit public safety workers, such as police and firefighters.
Included Provisions: One provision includes the presumption that any cancer contracted by a NJ firefighter with seven or more years of service would be work related, and then potentially applicable under workers compensation law. This includes internal and external cancers, which would then need to be proven to be not work related for an employer to avoid paying for them.
An additional provision includes one that vaccine-related illnesses taken for work purposes would also qualify if the vaccines had to do with epidemics or bioterrorism, and would expand to all employees rather than just those who worked in public safety.
Public safety workers who were exposed to communicable diseases in the course of employment would also be covered under workers compensation. Like the firefighter cancer example, this would also include a rebuttable presumption that the epidemic-related pathogen or biological warfare related illness is work related, and so coverable unless proven otherwise.
If you have a claim: At the Law Office of John L. Schettino, LLC, I have extensive experience in representing my clients on all manner of workers compensation claims. Getting injured in the course of your employment can be devastating to a career and your life overall if not properly handled, and you deserve a successful attorney to ensure your healthy future. For a free consultation about the services that I provide, call my office today at 201-498-9768 today to learn more about your options moving forward.