Levinson Axelrod, P.A. Partner Richard Marcolus, Esq. recently appeared before the New Jersey Senate Labor Committee to testify in support of the 21st Century Workers Access to Justice Act, an important proposed measure that Rich helped draft.
The Act – Senate Bill 4059 / Assembly Bill No. 5659 – is intended to bolster the rights of injured workers and guarantee them the ability to retain counsel on a contingency basis, which in turn enables them to have qualified support when accessing the workers’ compensation court system and challenging denials by workers’ compensation insurance carriers.
Rich, who has testified numerous times before the Legislature, delivered his testimony to members of the Labor Committee on December 14, 2023. He discussed the history of New Jersey’s workers’ compensation law and the tradition of handling cases on a contingency basis. Rich also discussed how workers’ compensation premiums have been on a decline since 2016.
About the Act
The 21st Century Workers Access to Justice Act codifies into law a practice that has been part of New Jersey’s workers’ compensation system for over a century – the ability of injured workers to pay their attorneys on a contingent fee basis and not by hourly fees.
Contingency fees offer injured workers the ability to obtain qualified counsel they might not have, especially if their injuries prevent them from working and earning an income. A move to hourly fees, for example, would further slow an already strained workers’ compensation system and result in fewer lawyers handling these complex cases. This is not the same Worker’s Compensation system as it was in 1911, and many cases involve extra issues like private health care liens, state disability liens, Medicaid liens, Federal Medicare liens, interaction with Social Security Disability, and a host of other issues. Maintaining the system, the way it is helps preserve the ability for lawyers to take on these issues, as we have at Levinson Axelrod for almost 85-years.
Ultimately, solidifying workers’ rights to pay attorneys on contingency is a move that bolsters their ability to access the justice system and allowing attorneys to take on more complicated cases. It will also ensure that Workers’ Compensation Judges retain the discretion over counsel fees. The measure is supported widely by workers and advocates alike, including the New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police, the Policemen’s Benevolent Association, and the Firefighters Unions, among others.
If you have questions about the law or how it may impact your rights or potential case, Rich and our team are available to help. If you’d like to help support this measure, you can contact your local Assembly persons and Senator to ask them to VOTE YES on this bill.
Rich Marcolus and our workers’ compensation team at Levinson Axelrod, P.A. handle work-related injury cases in courts across New Jersey from 10 office locations. In addition to having recovered millions of dollars in benefits on behalf of injured clients and families, our team is also actively involved in helping draft and support legislation that protects the rights of workers and their loved ones. If you have questions or a potential case and your legal rights, call (732) 440-3089 or contact us online.