Virtually all New Jersey workers’ compensation attorneys are now aware of the statutory change implemented in 2018 regarding voluntary offers or bona fide offers of permanency. The new statute amended the prior 1927 law that permitted employers to extend voluntary offers as long as they complied with specified time caps without incurring counsel fees on the amount of the offer. The law implemented in 2018 dictated that, if there is already an existing formal attorney-client relationship when the offer is extended, the offer is subject to fees payable by both the petitioner and respondent.
The primary appeal for employers over the past 90 years or so when it comes to proposing voluntary offers, was that they would save a significant amount on counseling expenditures. For example, if the employer made a voluntary offer equivalent of $10,000, the respondent would save $1,200 by escaping the obligation of a counsel fee. The petitioner would subsequently save $800. However, under the stipulations set forth in the 2018 statute, what is the incentive for employers or insurance carriers to voluntarily make an offer? Are there any scenarios where voluntary offers are logical from a financial savings standpoint?
The short answer is, “yes.” However, the changes limit the situations in which voluntary offers are the best route to resolving a workers’ compensation case. Here is a brief overview of three common scenarios in which voluntary offers may be a viable option.
1. Clearly, if a worker that has sustained an injury has not retained an attorney when the offer is made, then the offer will still be free of counsel fee regardless of the 2018 law change. The challenge from an employer’s or insurance provider’s perspective is that there is no real way to ensure that the injured party does not have a preexisting written agreement with a lawyer. The employer or carrier may question the worker as to the existence of such relationship. However, the worker is under no legally-mandated obligation to disclose such information. The employer or insurance company can still extend a voluntary offer, knowing that it may not find out until the final stages of the case whether the offer is considered bona fide in terms of being exempted from counsel fees.
This is an important factor for workers submitting claims to bear in mind. Experienced workers’ compensation attorneys, like the ones you’ll find at Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo, can help you implement an effective negotiation strategy to maximize your potential for recovering a favorable settlement offer – including taking advantage of nuanced statutory provisions, like this one, to your advantage.
2. The injured employee’s attorney may occasionally submit a request to the employer or provider for a voluntary offer and provide their consent that the offer will not be subject to counsel fees. This might occur in a scenario when the injured party has reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), but the case will not likely be settled for a significant amount of time. The employee’s lawyer thus may ask for a voluntary offer in order to tide their client over, pending the case’s resolution. The consistent back-and-forth of case settlement can be intricate, and it can quickly become confusing as to what is the best option for your specific situation. It is essential to retain a knowledgeable and trustworthy workers’ compensation attorney to protect your rights and wishes at all stages of your case.
3. Some employers and insurance carriers choose to submit a voluntary offer during the early stages of a case (usually around the point of MMI) before they have determined whether the injured party has retained counsel in an attempt to deter the worker from submitting a petition for a permanency claim. Whether accepting this premature voluntary offer is the best option for you is a major decision. It is definitely one that should not be made without first consulting a highly-experienced workers’ compensation lawyer who is familiar with the circumstances of your claim and can offer clear input as to the implications your ultimate decision will have in terms of your final recovery amount.
Put simply, the new 2018 law will not completely eliminate the occurrence of voluntary offers. They are still viable options for employers (despite the risk of counsel fees) in limited scenarios as discussed above. From an employee standpoint, understanding the reasoning behind such offers and consulting with your attorney to use this to your advantage during the negotiation stages of your claim can be essential in obtaining a favorable resolution to your case.
Contact a Trusted Law Firm in Northfield, New Jersey – We Can Help
If you or someone you love would like to receive more information on workers’ compensation settlements, wage loss, workplace injuries, wage claims, and how to receive benefits, contact the New Jersey workers’ comp attorneys at Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo as soon as possible.
The firm’s department head, Frank Petro, is respected locally, regionally, and nationally as a leading attorney in this specialized field. He has been recognized as an outstanding attorney by Best Lawyers® every year since 1995 and by Super Lawyers® every year since 2005. Moreover, he has achieved a rating of “Superb” on the leading lawyer-review website, Avvo®, the highest achievable rating.
Along with Stephen M. Matarazzo, Suzanne Holz Meola, Terri Hiles, Steven Lubcher, and Daniel Rosenthal, the firm’s workers’ comp attorneys have more than 100 years of combined experience, having successfully handled thousands of litigated workers’ comp cases throughout New Jersey. This experience and winning track record means that you are going to have a skilled New Jersey work injury lawyer who will work for you.
Call or contact us online to schedule your free consultation at one of our four southern New Jersey offices: Northfield, Cape May Court House, Cherry Hill, or Hamilton. Our experienced workers’ compensation attorneys can answer your questions and determine the most efficient way to proceed in order to help you and your family obtain the compensation that you deserve.
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