New Workers’ Compensation Legislation: The Hand and Foot Bill

On January 21, 2020, Governor Murphy signed legislation termed as the “Hand and Foot Bill.”

A workers’ compensation permanent disability award is, generally speaking, categorized in terms of body parts. As it relates to injuries to the “hand” (any injury below the elbow) and prior to the newly enacted legislation, awards were calculated on a maximum scale of 245 weeks of benefits. The new bill now requires those injuries to be calculated on the basis of 260 weeks and on those where the disability is considered equal to or greater than a 25% disability rating are to be based and calculated on a maximum scale of benefits of 300 weeks of compensation benefits.

In comparison and as it relates to the “foot,” (any injury below the knee) a compensation award is based and calculated on a scale of 250 weeks, as opposed to 230 weeks and for those injuries either equal to or greater than a 25% disability rating the award is calculated on a scale of 285 weeks.

By way of example, an award of 50% of the “hand” was previously paid at the applicable compensation rate over a period of 122.5 weeks for an award of $33,364; whereas now, an award of 50% is paid over a period of 150 weeks thereby increasing the monetary award by approximately $10,000 or an overall payment of $43,128 (based on the 2020 rate charts)/ Similarly, an award of compensation for 50% of the “foot” increased from 115 weeks of benefits for an award of $30,969 to 142.5 weeks of compensation benefits for an increased award of $40,312.50.

In addition to increasing the number of weeks of compensation payments, the newly enacted legislation also impacts residual permanent disability payments by way of eliminating subrogation liens as outlined in N.J.S.A. 34:15-40 for those injuries involving amputations.

In addition, statutory burial and funeral expenses as outlined in N.J.S.A. 34:15-13 were increased from $3,500 to $5,000.

Should you have questions or wish to discuss the impact of the above legislation, please contact the Workers’ Compensation Group at Brown & Connery, LLP at 856-854-8900.

By: Bryan Sullivan, Associate at Brown & Connery, LLP