Effective Monday, August 16, 2021, all fifteen New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Court facilities have reopened to attorneys, litigants, court reporters, and staff. The Division of Workers’ Compensation has adopted the use of Microsoft Teams videoconferencing to hold most court proceedings electronically.
The following court proceedings may be held electronically:
- Routine list markings;
- Pre-trial conferences;
- Dismissal for Lack of Prosecution;
- Hearings on Emergent Motions for Medical and Temporary Disability Benefits (initial conferences);
- Standard Motions for Medical and Temporary Disability Benefits (initial conferences);
- Approval of Section 20 (lump sum dismissal) settlements; and
- Approval of Section 22 settlements (“Order Approving Settlements”).
The Division has also said that other types of proceedings, including “in person” settlement approval hearings, conferences involving the Judge of Compensation, and trials should be held electronically. The Division says that while the Court will allow some “in person” proceedings, the litigants will have to explain why the matter could not be addressed electronically. The Division as instructed all litigants that “in person” settlements, conferences and trials are “highly discouraged.”
Why This Is Good for Employers and Carriers
The use of videoconferencing technology to replace most routing court proceedings should result in the following benefits for employers and carriers in New Jersey:
- Reduction in defense attorney costs due to reduced “waiting time” in court;
- Reduction in attorney costs due to most court listings being resolved via teleconference rather than in person.
- Improved efficiency for defense firms able to appear before multiple judges in one day (due to lack of traveling time) passed on to employers and carriers as cost savings;
- Should improve speed of case resolution as counsel for the petitioner should be allowed less adjournments due to scheduling conflicts;
- Reduced costs associated with bringing employer witnesses to hearings and trial proceedings in litigated cases;
- Reduced costs associated with presenting expert witness testimony.
For comparison, when the New York workers’ compensation system went to mandatory virtual proceedings in 2018, Lois Law Firm clients experienced a drop in average attorneys costs of 26%.
Why This Is Good for Petitioners and Their Attorneys
- Easier access to court proceedings for both Petitioners’ counsel and their client;
- Less grounds for adjournments due to scheduling conflicts of Petitioners’ attorney (where petitioner counsel is scheduled for proceedings in two courts on the same day, counsel for the petitioner would typically adjourn one proceeding in favor of the other);
- Improve speed of case resolution, leading to faster awards or settlements for injured workers.