On June 17, 2019 Governor Philip Murphy signed Senate Bill No. 1967, which provides “supplemental benefits” to public safety workers and their families who are entitled to workers’ compensation. The new law provides a much-needed cost of living adjustment in workers compensation death benefits for the surviving dependents of public safety workers who were previously limited to the specific dollar amount awarded at the time of their injury. Under the new law:

“[A] person who is a public safety worker, or a dependent of a public safety worker, who is receiving weekly benefits pursuant to [New Jersey’s workers’ compensation statute] for a disability or death that occurred after December 31, 1979, and who is not entitled to receive special adjustment benefits . . . shall be entitled to receive weekly supplemental benefits from the Second Injury Fund during the period in which the dependent is eligible to receive the initially-awarded weekly benefits, whenever the amount of the initially-awarded weekly benefits is less than the total amount of weekly benefits that would be payable to the dependent [based on current workers’ compensation rates].”

In other words, under the new law (which is effective as of July 1, 2019), public safety workers and families of public safety workers who were killed on the job will be entitled to have their benefit awards adjusted annually to match New Jersey’s then-current benefit rates. So, whereas a disabled worker who was awarded $750 per week would have continued to receive $750 per week under the old law, under the new law, this award will increase annually to account for increases in the cost of living. The new law applies to all workers and families who were injured or lost their loved one after December 31, 1979 (a pre-existing law provides cost of living adjustments for injuries occurring before 1980).

Important Facts about New Jersey’s New Supplemental Benefit Statute for Workers’ Compensation Recipients

1. The New Supplemental Benefit Statute Only Applies to Public Safety Workers and their Families

The only beneficiaries of this new statute are the survivors of police firefighters, and volunteer first aid responders whose lives were lost while employed in the course and scope of their employment.  An annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) in the weekly workers’ compensation benefit rate will be made for any public safety worker who has become totally and permanently disabled from a workplace injury at any time after December 31, 1979 and for the surviving dependents of any public safety worker who died from a workplace injury after December 31, 1979. This adjustment is intended to mirror, to the extent possible, the COLA already in place for benefits arising from an injury occurring before 1980.

2. The New Supplemental Benefit Statute Will Maintain Your Level of Benefits Based on Increases in the Cost of Living.

The new law is designed to ensure that public safety workers who receive workers’ compensation benefits are not disadvantaged by increases in the cost of living. As stated in Section 1.b. of the statute:

“The base amount of the weekly supplemental benefits . . . shall be calculated in a manner so that when it is added to the workers’ compensation weekly benefits initially awarded, the sum of the initial award and the base weekly supplemental benefits shall bear the same percentage relationship to the maximum workers’ compensation rate for the current fiscal year that the person’s initial compensation bore to the maximum workers’ compensation rate in effect at the time of the injury or death.”

3. The Right to Supplemental Benefits Is Subject to Certain Limitations.

The dependents’ rights to claim supplemental benefits under the new law are subject to certain other limitations as well. For example, the law limits recipients’ supplemental benefits based upon the conditions of Social Security disability (SSD) eligibility so that the receipt of supplemental benefits will not impair recipients’ ability to claim SSD. It also prevents workers’ compensation recipients from claiming supplemental benefits if they have elected not to receive SSD. Additionally, if the amount of supplemental benefits to be paid is less than $5 per week, then “[a] supplemental benefit shall not be paid.”

Speak with a New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Lawyer for Free

For injured workers and families who have lost loved ones due to job-related accidents, New Jersey’s new supplemental benefits statute is an important development.

The reality is that the outcome of your case will largely depend on the skill of your New Jersey work injury attorney and the quality of your legal representation. Your attorney’s level of education, experience, track record, legal abilities, and reputation all matter, which is why we always say, “Select Excellence!”

Petro Cohen, P.C. has been consistently recognized as one of New Jersey’s leading firms in the area of workers’ comp. The firm received the highest rating by Martindale-Hubbell – the world’s foremost authority on law firm credentials – in Professional Excellence and Ethical Standards and Legal Ability.

In addition to the firm’s stellar reputation, the 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 Suzanne Holz Meola, Terri Hiles, and Daniel Rosenthal, our New Jersey 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.

If you have questions and would like to speak with an attorney, we encourage you to contact us at Petro Cohen, P.C. for a free initial consultation at one of our four office locations in New Jersey: Northfield, Cherry Hill, Hamilton, or Cape May Court House. To schedule an appointment at a time that is convenient for you, please call 888-675-7607 or inquire online today.