Effective immediately, the maximum allowable evaluating physician fee under the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act has increased from $600 to $1,000
The statute leaves the medical expert fee within the discretion of the judge
Respondents/carriers/employers should anticipate contributing up to $500 for the petitioner’s medical expert fee
On July 20, 2023, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Senate Bill No. 3309, which amends the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act to increase the maximum allowable evaluating physician fee from $600 to $1,000.
Judges in the New Jersey workers’ compensation courts have routinely ordered the maximum $600 fee paid to a petitioner’s evaluating treatment physician or permanency expert. Typically, the judge splits the cost evenly between the petitioner and the respondent/carrier/employer, each paying $300. While judges have routinely granted the maximum $600 allowed, the statute does leave the medical expert fee within the discretion of the judge. Thus, for cases with smaller awards, the parties can still request that the judge enter a smaller medical expert fee, as it benefits both petitioner and respondent, who are splitting the cost.
It is important to recognize this change when evaluating reserves and fees/costs of litigation. For quite some time, the respondent/carrier/employer could rely on the fact that it would have to contribute $300 to the petitioner’s medical expert fee when settling a case under a Section 22 Order Approving Settlement. Now, with this law becoming effective immediately, the respondent/carrier/employer should anticipate contributing up to $500 for petitioner’s medical expert fee. Again, the fee is within the discretion of the judge. However, the standard has been that judges typically award the maximum allowable fee, which is now $1,000.
While the new law contains a provision that the changes “shall take effect immediately,” it leaves unclear whether the $1,000 maximum should be applied to all examinations/reports taking place after July 20, 2023, or to all settlements being placed on the record after July 20. It is very possible that an examination/report took place before July 20, but that the settlement will not be approved until after July 20, when this law took effect. Thus, there is still room for argument that the lower fee should apply to any examinations/reports prior to July 20.