Governor Phil Murphy has settled the debate on the 2020 Workers’ Compensation “Hand and Foot” Bill. The new law, originally signed on January 21, 2020, increased workers’ compensation permanency awards for injuries involving fingers, hands, and feet. The bill went into immediate effect and clearly impacted all claims filed on or after January 21, 2020. However, it was not clear whether the bill also applied to unresolved claims filed prior to, but still pending on, January 21, 2020. Differing opinions arose amongst practitioners, judges, and vicinages.
In an effort to resolve the dispute, the New Jersey State Legislature passed Bill A4134. The changes made by the “Hand and Foot” Bill now apply to all traumatic accident and occupational disease claims which have not yet been adjudicated, or approved for settlement, as of January 21, 2020. The changes do not apply to cases which have been reopened by an Application to Modify a Formal Award. The bill has since been signed by Governor Murphy.
The new bill is bound to create some confusion. At the outset, it creates disparate outcomes for similarly situated injured workers depending on when their claims close. For a 2017 hand injury, a worker with a fifteen percent disability that settles on December 31, 2019 will receive less money than a worker with a fifteen percent disability that settles on January 22, 2020. Additionally, when these cases are subsequently reopened, practitioners are going to have to look back at the prior closing dates to determine whether the new or old rates apply. Lastly, cases that settled at the old rates after January 21, 2020, but prior to the passage of Bill A4134, may have to be re-opened and the awards adjusted. GRSLBG&B will continue to provide legal guidance as these issues arise, and we encourage our clients and colleagues to contact us with any specific legal questions you may have.
 Samantha E. Hahn, Esq. is a Shareholder in GRSLBG&B’s Workers’ Compensation Department. She defends employers, insurers, and third party administrators against workers’ compensation claims in New Jersey and New York. Samantha can be reached at SHahn@grsl.com.
 Yi Zhu, Esq. is an Associate in GRSLBG&B’s Workers’ Compensation Department. He represents insurance companies and self-insured employers in the defense of Workers’ Compensation claims in New Jersey and New York. Yi can be reached at YZhu@grsl.com.