Archive for December, 2012

New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act Amended to Prohibit Civil Collection Actions Against Injured Workers For Bills Relating to Work-Related Injuries

By Gary E. Adams

Friday, December 7th, 2012

For many years, injured workers in New Jersey were being pursued by medical providers for payment of unpaid balances for medical treatment associated with injuries sustained at work.

Under New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Law, the employer or its workers’ compensation insurance company is responsible for 100% of the cost of all medical expenses related to a work-related injury.  In exchange for undertaking this responsibility, the employer has the right to select the provider of medical treatment, with the exception of emergency situations.

The problem addressed by the recent amendment to the Workers’ Compensation Act arose when medical providers authorized by the employer were either not paid at all by the employer, or were dissatisfied with the amount paid for their services.  In many cases, the medical provider would pursue the injured worker for payment.  The provider would frequently involve collection agencies and attorneys to pursue injured workers.  Collection attorneys frequently filed civil lawsuits against the injured workers.  The worker would then have to defend that lawsuit, incurring legal fees in order to do so.  In most cases, the worker would not have the resources to defend the claims, and default judgments were entered against them.

P.L. 2102, Chapter 67, signed in to law on November 19, 2012, prohibits medical providers authorized by the employer from filing civil lawsuits against injured workers to collect outstanding medical bills.  Medical providers who are contesting the amount they were paid for their services must pursue their claims either directly with the employer or its insurance carrier, or pursue their claims in the New Jersey Division of Workers’ Compensation.  Under the Act, The Division is given exclusive jurisdiction to resolve claims made by medical providers for treatment costs associated with work-related injuries.  The New Jersey Division of Workers’ Compensation, because of its expertise in addressing issues associated with work-related injuries, can address these disputes far more quickly and efficiently, at no cost to the injured worker.  Medical providers also benefit by being able to obtain quick and certain resolution of their disputed claims.