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New Jersey bill would increase comp attorneys fees

Posted On: Apr. 3, 2023 10:43 AM CST


New Jersey lawmakers have introduced legislation that would increase attorneys fees in workers compensation cases.

Assembly Bill 5353, filed Thursday, would raise attorneys fees for prevailing parties to 25% from the previous 20% cap.

The bill would also amend existing law to state that the 25% would be paid in orders for payment of medical and temporary disability benefits and in cases involving orders approving any type of settlement.

Under the measure, judges would have discretion as to the allocation of payment of counsel fees between claimants and employers.

A sponsorship statement says the proposal comes in response to the unpublished ruling in Garzon v. Morris County Golf Club, which was reported on previously in Business Insurance.

In that case, a New Jersey appeals court reversed an attorneys fee award in a case involving an injured golf course worker. The court said a comp judge erred in approving a large fee award since “reasonableness,” and not the blanket 20% of the award, should have been the guiding factor in determining the amount.

The legislative statement says that the bill aims to “incentivize attorneys to zealously represent injured workers and their families in every case compensable under the workers compensation law, and to create a disincentive for employers to deny or delay medical, temporary, and permanency benefits without legal defense or cause.”

The bill says the nondiscretionary 25% attorneys fee amount takes into account the increased duties of claimants attorneys given recent changes in state and federal law.