When a current or former employer wants to close his workers' comp case to receive more upfront funds or take control of his own medical care, he may agree to settle his claim. A lawyer often helps with this process to ensure that his rights are carried out. Unfortunately, the process does not immediately conclude and result in a large check being sent. Instead, there are a few legal maneuvers that must transpire before he can be done with his claim.
Settling your workers' compensation claim basically means you are releasing your employer from any future obligation by receiving a lump sum of money now. For this reason, it is important to know about the potential medical expenses you might incur in the future because you want to be able to cover these expenses with the workers' comp settlement. The amount of money you are offered will likely be based on the amount of permanent disability under your state workers' compensation laws, as well as the need for continued care.
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Release of Future Claims
When you sign the documents in which you accept the settlement, you will probably be required to sign a document that says you release the employer from any future obligation to pay on your claim. So if you discover a medical ramification from the illness or injury that did not originally manifest itself at the time of your claim, the employer probably will not have to pay for any additional medical expenses that you incur later.
Involvement of Judge
Before the settlement becomes official, some states require it to be presented in front of an administrative judge for approval. This involves having a court hearing in which information about the case is discussed on the record. If the judge approves the settlement, she will issue an order.
Other states may have their workers' compensation board review the settlement. If this is the case, the workers' compensation board will send you a letter if it approves the settlement. The date of the letter is the cutoff date for medical expense payments. Some states provide a 30-day waiting period after this letter is sent that gives any party involved the option to withdraw from the settlement and to renegotiate any terms of the settlement. If the waiting period expires without any withdrawal by the parties, the settlement agreement is binding.
Receipt of Money
The clock starts to tick after the judge enters the order. Based on state law, the employer will have a certain number of days in which it must remit payment of the settlement. In some states, this deadline is 30 days. If the money is not received within this period of time, the injured worker may be able to petition the court to impose payment and to ask for a penalty.
According to state law and the actual workers' comp settlement, the employer may agree to pay or be obligated to pay for certain medical expenses. This obligation may last for a specified period of time or be for an indefinite period of time. However, the employer may be able to ask the court to review certain medical treatments to determine whether they are reasonable and necessary.