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, it’s wise to consult with a Nebraska workers’ comp lawyer before you sign any agreements. (To learn how much that might cost you, see our article on attorneys’ fees in Nebraska workers’ comp cases.) Below, we explain the settlement process in Nebraska.
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 your right to some or all of your rights in your workers’ compensation case.
Lump sum settlements are common in Nebraska. A lump sum settlement is where the insurance company makes a one-time payment to close out your workers’ comp case for good. This often requires you to give up your right to all future benefits, including medical coverage. And, if your condition gets worse, you cannot reopen your case and ask for more benefits.
In some cases, though, the insurance company will agree to an alternative arrangement. For example, the insurance company might agree to make periodic payments instead of a lump sum and continue to cover future medical care. With this type of settlement, the employee does not give up all rights to workers’ comp benefits.
Unlike other states, Nebraska does not require approval of all workers’ compensation settlements. Lump sum settlements must be approved by the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court only in certain situations, including when:
In the above situations, the parties must file a Lump Sum Settlement Application with the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court. A workers’ comp judge will review the terms of the settlement to make sure it’s in the best interests of the employee. In some cases, the judge will schedule a hearing before approving the settlement.
In all other cases, the parties can file a release with the court. This document lays out the terms of the settlement and what rights the employee is giving up. The court does not review and approve the settlement. Payment is due within 30 days of the filing, or the employee can collect a 50% penalty.
Lump sum settlements are final once they are filed with the court, or if required, approved by the court. The only way to reverse a lump sum settlement is to show that the insurance company committed fraud, which is very difficult to do.
Periodic payment settlements, on the other hand, are a little more flexible. They can be modified at any time, with the approval of both the insurance company and the workers’ compensation court. If the insurance company does not agree to the change, you can petition the court within six months from the date of the agreement for an increase in benefits. However, you’ll need to show that your circumstances have changed, such as a worsening of your condition.
The amount of the 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 Nebraska 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.
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 should also consult with a Nebraska 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.