New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine has signed a package of five bills lawmakers hope fill strengthen the state’s workers’ compensation system to better protect workers injured on the job.
The package of bills represents a multilevel reform of the Garden State’s workers’ comp insurance system, which in 2007 had nearly 200,000 work-related accidents. The reform package includes measures such as boosting public representation on the board that sets premiums and granting enhanced authority for judges of compensation to enforce their decisions.
“With today’s bill signing, we are addressing issues between workers and their employer’s insurance companies before a complaint is even filed,” Corzine said. “We’re taking steps to make a cost effective and efficient system even better so that injured workers receive the compensation they deserve.”
Senator Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen), the chairman of the Senate Labor Committee who called for hearings which initiated the reforms of the workers’ compensation system said “we are… changing a basically good system to make it even better…. The sanctions in this reform program should make it untenable for companies to forego workers’ comp coverage for their employees and it also makes it a lot more uncomfortable for workers who try to game the system.”
The bills comprising the reform package are
— S1917/A2969, which revises membership of the Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau and further clarifies its authority. Public representation on the governing board is expanded by three members representing labor, business and the general public.
— S1916/A2968, which ensures that workers’ compensation cases involving emergent medical issues are heard in a timely manner and that treatment and compensation is delivered when it is needed. As a result, claims involving a worker who is denied medical treatment will be prioritized when a doctor certifies that immediate care is needed.
— S1915/A3059, which ensures that all eligible workers are covered by their employers by requiring employers to submit proof of workers’ compensation coverage on their annual reports filed with the Department of Treasury.
— S1914/A2967, which strengthens enforcement against employers for failure to provide workers’ compensation coverage. Employers who fail to provide workers’ compensation will be subject to enhanced administrative and criminal penalties.
— S1913/A2966, which increases the power of judges of compensation and provides them with the necessary tools to enforce workers’ compensation law against insurers, employers or attorneys who fail to comply with a judge’s orders or deadlines.
“These new laws reform the workers’ comp system from all angles,” said Assemblyman Tom Giblin (D-Essex). “From giving judges more power to police insurers and employers who fail to do their due diligence, to increasing penalties against employers who fail to purchase coverage, this package is strong and it will make a tremendous difference.”
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