Retroactive Application Of The Hand And Foot Bill In New Jersey Worker’s Compensation

Section 12 of the New Jersey Workers Compensation Act (N.J.S.A. 34:15-12) was amended in 2020 to increase the schedule of permanent disability benefits for bodily injuries to the hands and feet. The purpose of the amendments was to address a long-standing perception that those workers suffering injuries to the hands and feet were not fairly compensated.   However, the new law left much to be desired as it was unclear to practitioners and Judges of Compensation alike as to which cases the law applied to. On October 30, 2020, New Jersey passed a bill amending Section 2 of P.L. 2019, c.387, or more commonly referred to as the Hand and Foot bill for New Jersey Workers’ Compensation, in order to clarify whether the new law applied to cases pending after January 21, 2020 or only those cases filed after January 21, 2020.

With the passing of A. 4134, it was clarified that the Hand and Foot bill “shall take effect immediately, and shall apply to all pending traumatic accident claims or occupational disease or injury cases which have not yet been adjudicated by a Judge of Workers Compensation or approved for settlement under R.S.34:15-22 on or after the date of enactment of P.L.2019, c.387. Moreover, our Legislature clarified the Hand and Foot Bill shall not be applicable to cases which have been reopened by an Application to Modify a Formal Award as outlined in Section 27 of the Act (N.J.S.A. 34:15-27).

As all pending claims are subject to the new schedule of payments at the time of settlement, insurance carriers, third party administrators, and practitioners should be aware of this change and be guided accordingly. The OSCAR program ( for calculation of permanent disability benefits has not yet been updated for those traumatic accidents or occupational exposures occurring before 2020. For those prior claims, manual calculations according to the Rate Chart of Disabilities will be required to accurately assess the monetary permanent disability benefits awarded.

These amendments can have a rather significant impact on the monetary benefits associated with permanent injuries and upcoming settlements. For example, and utilizing the 2021 Rate Chart of Disabilities, an orthopedic injury to the spine with a 15% permanent partial disability valuation “stacked” with a 27.5% disability assessment to the hand, equates to 172.5 weeks of benefits or an overall 28.75% whole person impairment, at the rate of $310.51 for an award of $53,563.50. If, however, the orthopedic spine injury has an increased permanency valuation of 17.5% in combination with the 27.5% disability assessment to the hand, the “stacked” award substantially increases to 187.5 weeks of benefits for an overall 31.25% whole person impairment, at the rate of $452 per week for a monetary award of $84,750.

Should you have any questions or concerns regarding these amendments and its potential impact on your pending workers’ compensation claims, please do not hesitate to contact Brown & Connery’s Workers’ Compensation Group.

By: Hailey C. Arbelo, Associate at Brown & Connery, LLP