Workers’ compensation settlements involving permanent disabilities may conclude with simple negotiations or stressful court battles. Once your disability has been rated, you may receive a settlement offer to resolve your case from the workers’ comp claims administrator. A settlement is basically an agreement between you and your employer’s insurer’s claims administrator. In California, you can settle your case and get paid in two different ways:
- The Stipulations with Request for Award
- Payments – With the “Stips” option, you and the administrator must reach an agreement regarding when and how long you will continue receiving permanent disability payments, as well as the amount of each payment.
- Medical Care – As long as you require medical care, the administrator should agree to keep paying for it.
- Possible Changes in Your Workers’ Comp Benefits – You are entitled to request more workers’ comp benefits in the unfortunate event that your condition worsens. On the other hand, the administrator is also entitled to request the reduction of your benefits if your condition improves. In general, a request for the reduction or increase in workers’ comp benefits should be made within five years following your injury date.
- Compromise and Release
- Payment – With the C&R option, you agree to receive a one-time lump sum payment, which must cover the permanent disability payments you have yet to receive.
- Medical Care – Paying for your doctor will become your responsibility if the lump sum you will receive already covers the estimated future costs of your medical care.
- No Changes in Your Workers’ Comp Benefits – You won’t have the right to request more benefits if your condition worsens. Likewise, the administrator cannot also request for a reduction of your benefits should your condition improve.
Once a settlement between you and the administrator has been reached, it must be reviewed by a workers’ comp judge to determine whether it’s fair and adequate for both parties.
Whether you should settle by C&R or Stips will depend on your specific circumstances. That being said, consider the following factors:
- The possibility of you requiring expensive future medical care.
- The possibility of your condition changing over time.
- Whether you require or prefer a lump sum payment.
- Whether you have your own health insurance coverage to cover possible future medical care.
Keep in mind that the administrator can’t require you to accept a settlement offer and that you have the right to negotiate. You can also request a hearing with a workers’ comp judge if you feel that negotiating with the administrator isn’t working or if you believe that the administrator is deliberately trying to dispute your claim to get you to accept a low offer.
However, negotiating a workers’ comp settlement or presenting your case to a judge can be overwhelming and challenging. In any case, reputable workers’ compensation lawyers offer no-obligation free initial consultations, so it won’t cost you anything to learn more about your case and options.