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February 23, 2004 6:32 AM
Recent Amendments to the NJ Workers' Compensation Act: Dependnacy Rates / Asbestos Disease Recovery / Notice Requirement Eliminated

 Dependency rates were raise to a uniform 70%, not 100% so the "death penalty" continues.

 
NJSA 34:15-33 was repealed. This effects all occupational claims and eliminates the requirement of notice in all occupational disease claims. This eliminates the conservative case law, ie. Brock.
 
While working in various capacities for approximately 30 years, an employee was exposed to asbestos fiber. During 1987 the employee retired. In 1988 the retired employee consulted with both a lawyer and a doctor. In November of 1989 the employee had actual knowledge that he suffered from asbestosis. In 1990, a third party products liability claim was filed against the manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers of asbestos material as a result of his asbestosis which he learned of when he received a copy of the medical report from his attorney. In March of 1991, the former employee received the proceeds of the first settlement from a defendant in the third party action. On October 23, 1991, within two years after he had knowledge of his occupationally-related disease, the former employee filed a workers' compensation claim against his former employer. The court barred the claim because the employee had not notified his former employer until the filing of the workers' compensation claim which was not within the 90 days provided by the Statute. Brock v. Public Service Electric and Gas Co., 290 N.J.Super. 221, 675 A.2d 668 (App.Div.1996), reversed by 149 N.J. 378, 693 A.2d 894 (1997).
 
In asbestos related disease claims the Statute now allows recovery against the Uninsured Employer's Fund [UEF] if the employer or insurer of principals of the employer CANNOT be located, OR the last employer where there was an asbestos exposure cannot be identified. The "devil is in the details" on this one since the administrative rules have yet to be promulgated or even published. Past experience has shown UEF claims are laborious and difficult to prosecute. The jury is out on this one as the various scenarios are endless as to what can occur.
 
The NJ Workers' Compensation Act was amended by P.L.2003 c.253 effective 1/14/2004. 
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