Settling Your Workers' Compensation Case in Delaware

Learn how and when to settle a workers’ comp case in Delaware.

If you have a workers’ comp case in Delaware, you can receive a lump sum payout of your workers’ comp benefits. However, this often means agreeing to close out your workers’ comp case for good. Because of this, it’s wise to consult with a Delaware workers’ comp lawyer before you sign any agreements.

What Is a Workers’ Comp Settlement in Delaware?

Delaware allows commutation settlements in workers’ compensation cases. A commutation is a lump sum payout of benefits that are owed by the insurance company—either by voluntary agreement or by order of a workers’ compensation judge. Either the worker or the insurance company can petition the Delaware Industrial Accident Board for a commutation.

After receiving a petition, the board will schedule a hearing to review the commutation request. The board will only approve a commutation in certain situations, including where it is in your best interests or where it will avoid undue expense or hardship for you or the insurance company. If the commutation is approved, you can receive a lump sum payout of part or all of your future benefits, including future medical treatment.

Commutations are final, meaning that you are closing out your right to the particular benefits being paid in a lump sum. For example, if you receive a commutation of permanent impairment benefits, you won’t be able to ask for more money for your impairment, even if your condition unexpectedly worsens later on.

How Much Money Will I Receive?

If a lump sum payout is approved, you will receive the present value of your future Delaware workers’ compensation benefits. This is a somewhat complicated concept, based on the premise that a dollar received today is worth more than a dollar received in the future—for example, because of inflation or the ability to invest. In Delaware, your benefits will be discounted using a 5% interest rate. If you are considering a commutation, consult with a workers’ comp lawyer or contact the Delaware Division of Industrial Affairs for help determining how much you will receive.

When Should I Settle My Case?

There’s no specific deadline for settling your workers’ comp case. However, most workers wait to settle until they reach maximum medical improvement. This is when your doctor declares that your condition has improved as much as it’s going to with treatment. If you have a permanent disability, your doctor will assign you a permanent disability rating at this time. Before this point, it will be difficult to know how severe your injury is and how it will impact your ability to work.

What Happens If I Don’t Settle?

If you and the insurance company can’t agree on how much compensation you are owed, you can petition the Board of Industrial Accidents for a hearing. The board will hear evidence from both sides and determine whether you are entitled to benefits. Because hearings follow complicated rules and procedures, you should consult with a Delaware workers’ compensation lawyer beforehand. Hiring a workers’ comp lawyer can be essential to obtaining a favorable ruling from the board. To learn how much this might cost, see our article on attorneys' fees in Delaware workers’ comp cases.

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