While there are many benefits to settling your workers’ compensation case, you will also likely be giving up significant rights. Because settlements are usually final, it’s wise to consult with a Connecticut workers’ comp lawyer before you sign any agreements. (To learn how much that might cost you, see our article on attorneys’ fees in Connecticut workers’ comp cases.) Below, we explain what settlements are and how they are approved in Connecticut.
A settlement is a way to resolve your workers’ comp case without a formal hearing. In general, the worker agrees to give up certain rights in exchange for an agreed-upon sum of money from the insurance company. The amount of the settlement varies largely 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 Connecticut 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.
In Connecticut, a full and final settlement of a workers’ compensation case is called a “stipulation.” In this type of arrangement, you agree to close out our workers’ comp case in exchange for a sum of money. Payments are usually made in a lump sum, but they can also be scheduled in installments over time (for example, every month or year).
In some cases, a stipulation will require you to give up all rights to future benefits. In other cases, the insurance company might agree to leave some rights open, such as the right to future medical care. The particulars are typically up to you and the insurance company. However, there is one exception: You cannot be required to waive your right to vocational rehabilitation services.
Stipulations are final, which means you can’t change your mind and reopen your case if your condition gets worse after the settlement. Because of this, think carefully before agreeing to a stipulation.
A voluntary agreement is used when the insurance company has accepted your claim and agrees that you are owed a certain amount in workers’ comp benefits. A voluntary agreement does not close out your workers’ comp case. You will continue to receive weekly benefits based on the amount stated in the agreement, and you can continue to seek medical treatment through workers’ comp. And, if your condition worsens, you can petition for additional benefits.
Both stipulations and voluntary agreements must be approved by the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission. The insurance company will fill out the Voluntary Agreement form, send it to you for signature, and then forward it to the Commission for approval. This process does not involve a hearing.
Stipulations, on the other hand, generally involve an approval hearing before the commission. The insurance company will prepare a written stipulation agreement for your review and signature. You’ll also need to sign an acknowledgement form, called a Stipulation and What It Means. The forms will be submitted to the commissioner, and a settlement approval hearing will be scheduled. At the hearing, a workers’ comp judge will ask you several questions about the settlement, your medical condition, your income, and more. The judge will approve the settlement if it appears to be in your best interests.
Under Connecticut workers’ comp laws, you must receive payment due under a stipulation or voluntary agreement within 20 days. If you don’t, you can collect a 20% penalty for each late payment.