New Jersey Workers’ Comp Reforms Target Payments, Employer Scofflaws

June 25, 2008

New Jersey lawmakers have approved a number of major changes to the Garden State’s workers’ compensation insurance system.

The reforms comprise a package of six bills passed earlier this week by the Assembly and Senate that, among other things, more harshly punish insurers for failure to pay claims (S1913) and create criminal charges and stiffer penalties for employers who fail to buy workers comp insurance (S1914).

Another bill (S1917) would alter the membership of the New Jersey Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau (NJCRIB), which regulates and sets premiums for workers’ compensation insurance in the state. The bill adds to the NJCRIB a member from a labor union a business group to the 10-member directorship of the organization.

The changes – which passed almost unanimously – mark the first significant reform of the state’s $1.8 billion workers’ comp insurance system in nearly 30 years. The reforms follow an investigation earlier this year by The Star-Ledger newspaper, which described the system as poorly run and ineffective at paying injured workers in a reasonable timeframe.

Roughly 100,000 injured workers in New Jersey receive some sort of workers’ compensation benefits each year.

The reform bills head now to the desk of Gov. Jon S. Corzine.

A Corzine spokesman said this morning the governor’s office has not yet finished vetting the final bills. Corzine hasn’t publicly signaled whether he will sign the reform package.

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