DWC Organization & Function
NEW JERSEY'S WORKERS' COMPENSATION PROGRAM: HISTORY
New Jersey, a pioneer in promoting legislation for the protection of injured workers, has had a workers' compensation law in effect since 1911. Prior to this, employees injured on the job were forced to sue their employers for negligence under common law. The process, which routinely took many years, created grave hardships for injured workers by leaving them without income and medical benefits while their cases were pending. Also, many claims proved unsuccessful due to the numerous defenses available to an employer under common law, such as contributory negligence and assumption of risk.
Few changes to the system were forthcoming until the reforms of 1979. This followed a long term study by a select blue ribbon panel consisting of representatives from labor, government and industry. A major objective of this reform was to enhance benefits to the more seriously disabled while discouraging permanent disability benefit payments to injured workers with only minor or subjective complaints. Provisions were also made for cost-of-living increases for totally and permanently disabled workers, dependents of deceased workers and Second Injury Fund beneficiaries. Consequently, New Jersey was again on the cutting edge of change. As a result, it was able to avoid the runaway cost increases and inefficiencies experienced by many compensation systems nationwide during the ensuing fifteen year period.
NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF WORKERS' COMPENSATION: FUNCTION
A partnership between government, industry and labor, the New Jersey workers' compensation program seeks to establish an equitable balance between the needs of injured workers and the needs of the employers of this state. The law protects both the employee and the employer: Employees receive reasonable and necessary medical care, temporary disability benefits and, when documented, an award for resulting permanent disability. Employers provide for the cost of such coverage while being protected from more expensive tort litigation and unlimited civil verdicts for non-economic losses.
The Division of Workers' Compensation (DWC) is responsible for the administration of the NJ Workers’ Compensation Law, N.J.S.A. 34:15-1 et seq., and the disposition of disputes raised under it. It does so by
- ensuring that injured workers receive fair and timely workers’ compensation benefits from their employers and their insurance carriers
- enforcing the law that requires employers to secure the necessary insurance coverage from commercial carriers or through self-insurance programs.
- providing temporary disability benefits and medical expenses to workers suffering from compensable injuries while working for uninsured employers
- Providing benefit payments to workers who are already partially disabled who subsequently experience a work related injury which together, render them totally disabled.
Russell Wojtenko, Jr., Director/Chief Judge
New Jersey Division of Workers' Compensation
PO Box 381, Trenton N.J. 08625-0381
(609) 292-2414, FAX (609) 984-2515
The Division of Workers' Compensation is comprised of two distinct program areas:
Workers’ Compensation and the Office of Special Compensation Funds (Uninsured Employer's Fund, Compliance Enforcement and Second Injury Fund).
Workers' Compensation Program
When parties are unable to amicably resolve their differences over entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits, the Division provides a fair and impartial forum to mediate and if necessary, adjudicate disputes. This function is carried out by the Division’s judicial and administrative staff.
Serving under Director/Chief Judge Russell Wojtenko, Jr. are Administrative Supervising Judges, Supervising Judges and Judges of Compensation whose responsibilities include mediating and adjudicating workers’ compensation disputes and reviewing and approving all proposed settlements of formal claims.
Judges of Compensation have the authority to make awards, require medical examinations and services for injured employees, approve and fix attorneys’ fees and assess penalties where appropriate. Their rulings are binding and are appealable only to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court.
The administrative arm of the DWC is responsible for the general management of the workers’ compensation functions of the Division. This includes the management and support of the central office administrative units and the fifteen district offices throughout the state.
Primary functions of this area include:
- Processing, recording, reviewing and data entering WC case information
- Processing requests for copies of case files and other available information
- Collecting statistics and maintaining records of reported injuries
- Assigning and scheduling claim petitions and informal hearings
- Providing information concerning benefits and claims processing procedures
Office of Special Compensation Funds
The Office of Special Compensation Funds is responsible for the following:
- Enforcing the law that requires employers to secure the necessary insurance coverage from commercial carriers or through self-insurance programs.
- Providing temporary disability benefits and medical expenses to workers suffering from compensable injuries while working for uninsured employers
- Providing benefit payments to workers who are already partially disabled who subsequently experience a work related injury which together, rendering them totally disabled.
Larry J. Crider, Administrator
Office of Special Compensation Funds (OSCF)
Division of Workers' Compensation
P.O. Box 399, Trenton, NJ 08625-0399
(609) 292-0165, FAX (609) 633-7783
Directory of OSCF administrative staff