The NJ Star-Ledger newspaper conducted an eight-month survey involving hundreds of thousands of workers compensation claims pending before the New Jersey Division of Workers Compensation. The Star Ledger series ran for three days and exposed huge difficulties in the NJ workers' compensation system.
The flaws in the $1.8 billion system include:
-Frequent delays for claimants who can least afford them: totally disabled workers with mounting medical needs, no income or insurance.In its review of court
dockets, The tar-Ledger found that hearings were rescheduled on average more than a dozen times.
-Inexperienced judges who, once on the bench, lack any substantial power to enforce their orders. The main qualification for some is friends in high places.
-A Legislature where some of the same lawmakers who approve comp judges and
decide which workers' benefits bills get considered belong to law firms that
earn big money in compensation cases.
-A workers' compensation administration that does a woeful job of tracking its own performance. New Jersey officials acknowledged they could not identify the outcome in more than 10,000 of the most complex cases in the past seven
-More than almost any state, New Jersey lets insurers dictate where, when and for how long injured workers get treated. There are no alternative forms of resolution, no incentives to quickly resolve a claim and weak sanctions against companies slow to act.
Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), vowed Wednesday to overhaul the state's "completely dysfunctional" workers' compensation system. "To fix the $1.8 billion-a-year system," Sweeney said, "You've got to go back and completely take it apart and put it back together again so it benefits employers and employees." (Star Ledger April 9, 2008)
In an editorial the Start Ledger demanded an "overhaul" of the entire NJ Workers' Compensation system:
New Jersey's nearly 100-year-old workers' compensation system is in desperate
need of an overhaul.
The picture in "comp court" can verge on the Dickensian: Thousands of cases become bogged down for years, delaying much-needed payments to workers with the most serious injuries or disabilities.
Compensation court judgeships are often treated as patronage plums, with skill
and expertise taking a back seat to political connections.
The insurance companies have responded by requesting more detailed analysis of the present system.
Star Ledger Series: