Workers’ Compensation Lump Sum Settlement Attorney
Most clients ask at some point in the process, “Can we just settle the case for a lump sum, and I go about with my life without having to deal with the work comp insurance company?” And my answer is, “usually.” Every case has its own unique facts and circumstances that must be considered. In general, you can settle a case at any time. You can settle before litigation starts, you can settle when the case is on appeal, and you can settle at any point in between. My general philosophy is that you shouldn’t settle unless you have received all the medical treatment available to make your work injury as good as it’s going to get. In work comp lingo, this is at the end of your “healing period.”
However, some claims are denied in the beginning for various reasons such as, not performing employment services, horseplay, intoxication, idiopathic fall, or independent contractor. If you go to trial on these issues, it’s usually an all or none proposition. In these instances it can be in your best benefit to settle the claim for a lump sum to avoid the risk of losing and getting nothing.
Joint Petition Settlement Approvals
All workers’ compensation settlements must be approved by a work comp judge, and settlements must be in writing and filed with the work comp commission for at least five days before a judge can hold the hearing approving the settlement. I attend every settlement hearing with my client, and I ask a series of questions that I cover with my client well before the hearing. Each client must testify under oath that they understand their rights and feel like the settlement is in their best interest before a judge will approve their settlement.
There are situations wherein the injured worker does not have to testify before a judge, but these situations are rare and disfavored. However, many of the trucking companies in Arkansas require their injured truck drivers to submit to Arkansas work comp laws. I have represented truck drivers all over the country, including California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania and New York. There is a process we can use with these out of state workers, wherein, we can submit settlements for approval based upon notarized interrogatories and affidavits.
Recent Changes to the Joint Petition Settlements
Prior to 2018, Arkansas work comp judges had to determine if the settlement was in the injured workers’ best interest. However, big business changed the law in 2017, so that the judge also has to consider whether the settlement is in your employer’s best interest. I testified against the bill at the Capitol in Little Rock, but the bill was passed with great pressure and financial support from employers and insurance companies. Part of my testimony was that injured workers unrepresented by attorneys would be taken advantage of by the insurance companies, and it will be difficult for judges to deny unfair settlements based upon the language of the new law.
Once a settlement is approved, the case is over and cannot be appealed. If you have not consulted an attorney before that time, it is too late.
Lump sum settlement negotiations can become complex when dealing with subrogation issues. Subrogation involves another insurance company that has made payments that your work comp insurance carrier should have made, and that other insurance company requests reimbursement. There are often situations wherein other insurance companies may have made payment of benefits after you were injured at work.
- A medical provider may have submitted payment to a health insurer instead of the work comp insurance carrier. In those situations, your health insurance company may be entitled to reimbursement.
- Another example involves personal short term or long term disability insurance benefits which may also be asking for reimbursement.
Additional matters that may play a role in your settlement could include:
- Unpaid child support, if you have unpaid court ordered child support, child support enforcement may require one-half (1/2) of your lump sum settlement be withheld to pay that debt.
Your eligibility for Medicare benefits can play into the negotiation of a work comp settlement, and sometimes Medicare must provide permission for you to settle your work comp claim. It is sometimes best to resolve your work comp claim before filing for Social Security disability and becoming eligible for Medicare.
All of these subrogation issues must be resolved in order for a work comp judge to approve a lump sum settlement.
Voluntary Termination of Employment
Insurance companies and employers often attempt to convince the injured worker to resign their employment. It is never a good idea to quit or voluntarily terminate your employment in the middle of your workers’ compensation claim. Further employment is best addressed at the end of the work comp claim and is a negotiating chip we can use to improve a lump sum settlement.
If anyone tries to convince you to resign, immediately contact the Law Office of Jason M. Hatfield, P.A. Do not quit or resign before speaking to my office.
Springdale Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
Experienced. Dedicated. Compassionate.
I have over 20 years of experience as a lawyer helping injured workers in Arkansas. It does not matter what type of injury you suffered on the job — you have worked long and hard to get where you are today.
If you are interested to learn more about potential lump sum settlements options or if your employer’s insurance company has offered a lump settlement for your injury you should contact the Law Office of Jason M. Hatfield, P.A. at 479-361-3575 to discuss if the offer is just and fair.