While there are many benefits to settling your workers’ compensation case, you will also likely be giving up significant rights. Because settlements are often final, you should consult with a Mississippi workers’ comp lawyer before you sign any agreements. (To learn how much that might cost you, see our article on attorneys’ fees in Mississippi workers’ comp cases.) Below, we explain the settlement process in Mississippi.
A settlement is a voluntary agreement between you and the insurance company to resolve your workers’ compensation case. In exchange for an agreed-upon sum of money, you give up some or all of your rights in your workers’ compensation case. In Mississippi, a compromise settlement is different than a request for a lump sum settlement. Both are described below.
If your claim was denied, or if there is a legitimate dispute over how much you are entitled to in benefits, you and the insurance company can agree to a compromise settlement. In Mississippi, these settlements are also called “9(i)” settlements (named after the original code section in the law authorizing them). A compromise release is typically a “full and final” settlement, meaning that you agree to give up all rights in your workers’ comp case in exchange for a lump sum. The lump sum is all you will ever get for your injury. If your condition gets worse after you settle, you usually cannot reopen your case to ask for more money.
Not all final settlements are paid in a lump sum. In some cases, especially those involving permanent and total disability, you and the insurance company might agree to have benefits paid in installments over a period of years, rather than in a lump sum.
In most cases, a final settlement means that you give up your right to future medical care for your injury. However, in some cases, the insurance company might agree to leave future medical care open—for example, if you have severe injuries that require a significant amount of future treatment.
If you’re receiving benefits from the insurance company and there is no dispute, you can ask the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission for a lump sum settlement (also called a “13(j)” settlement). This is simply a lump sum payout of your weekly benefits, after a reduction to bring them to present value. Mississippi uses a 4% discount rate and other factors, such as your life expectancy, to determine your lump sum. You can estimate your payout by using the commission’s lump sum calculator.
A lump sum settlement only discharges the insurance company’s liability for the benefits that are paid out; it does not close out your workers’ comp case for good. Your medical care will continue to be covered, and you can ask for additional benefits if your condition worsens within a certain period of time.
All settlements must be approved by the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission. However, the process is different for compromise settlements and lump sum settlements.
If you enter into a compromise settlement, the insurance company’s lawyer (or yours, if you have one) will draft up the settlement documents and submit them to the Workers’ Compensation Commission. A workers’ comp judge will review your medical records and the terms of the settlement. You will also need to attend an interview with the judge if you don’t have a lawyer.
The judge will approve the settlement if:
To request a lump sum settlement, you must file an Application for Lump Sum Payment (Form B-19) with the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission. If you don’t have a lawyer, the commission will bring you in for an interview. The judge will approve the settlement if you understand the consequences and it’s in your best interests. If you have a lawyer, you won’t need to attend an interview.
It’s important to understand the full the extent of your injuries before you settle your claim. For that reason, it’s almost always best to wait until you have reached maximum medical improvement. This is when your doctor finds that your condition has stabilized and assesses whether you have any permanent disability. You must be at maximum medical improvement to enter a compromise settlement in Mississippi.
You should also consult with a Mississippi workers’ comp lawyer before you agree to a settlement, as it can be difficult to know whether you’re getting a fair deal and whether the settlement protects all of your interests. This is especially important for a compromise settlement, which is final and generally cannot be undone.
The amount of a compromise settlement varies widely based on the severity of your injury, your ability to work, and your pre-injury wages. Conflicting evidence in your case—for example, as to whether your injury is work-related or whether you are permanently disabled—will also impact your claim’s settlement value.To get a general idea of how much you might be entitled to, see our article on Mississippi workers’ comp benefits. However, a claim’s settlement value depends on many factors, which can only be evaluated by a workers’ comp lawyer familiar with your case.