Maryland law provides several benefits to injured workers. Settling your worker’s compensation claim usually ends your right to collect those benefits, in exchange for a sum of money. Because settlements are typically final and can’t be undone, you should know exactly what rights you’re giving up before agreeing to close out your case.
In some states, the law prohibits an injured worker from settling before he or she reaches maximum medical improvement, or MMI (a phrase that means your condition has improved as much as it’s going to). Under Maryland law, you can settle your claim at any time, even before you reach MMI. However, this would be very risky. You won't know the true value of your claim until it's clear how severe your injury is and how it will affect your ability to work.
The value of your case depends on a number of factors. In Maryland, like in most other states, a higher wage means a higher settlement. The value of your case will also depend on the severity of your injuries, whether you’ll need future medical treatment, and whether you’ll be able to return to work.
Under Maryland law, the bulk of your settlement will usually be for permanent disability benefits. To learn more, read our article on Maryland workers' comp benefits.
In Maryland there are three ways your case can be resolved: a full and final settlement, a stipulation, or a workers’ comp hearing.
Full and Final Settlement
If you agree to a full and final settlement in your worker’s comp claim in Maryland, you are typically releasing the insurance company of all responsibility with regard to your case. In exchange, you’ll get an agreed-upon lump sum. (In some cases, you might be able to ask for installment payments over time instead of a lump sum.)
The two most important rights you are giving up by settling your claim are:
· your right to future medical care paid by the insurance company, and
· the right to reopen your case if your condition gets worse.
One of the benefits of this type of settlement, though, is that the insurance company might offer you more money because of the important rights you're giving up. Likewise, you’ll usually get all of your money up front, rather than wait for benefits on a weekly basis.
A settlement hearing is usually unnecessary if you submit a signed settlement affidavit. The affidavit is a written document that outlines all of the rights that you are giving up through the settlement.
Stipulation & Award
Another way to resolve your case is through a Stipulation and Award. In a stipulation, you and the insurance company agree on the amount of your permanent disability. You will continue to receive weekly workers’ comp benefits based on this amount. With a stipulation, you keep the right to:
· have your future medical treatment relating to the injury paid by the insurance company, and
· reopen your case within five years if your condition gets worse.
Workers’ Comp Hearing
If you and the insurance company can’t agree to a settlement or stipulation, your case will proceed to a workers’ comp hearing. A judge will listen to all of the evidence and decide what you’re owed. (To learn more, see our article on what to expect at a workers’ comp hearing.)
Before your settlement or stipulation can be finalized, it will need to be approved by the Maryland Worker’s Compensation Commission. Generally, a commissioner (a workers’ compensation judge) will review a set of documents that you submit describing the terms of the settlement. The commissioner will make sure the calculations are correct and that they comply with Maryland law.
The commissioner’s goals are to make sure the settlement is fair and reasonable and confirm that you understand what rights you are giving up. If everything looks good, the commissioner will approve the contract within a few weeks. Once the insurance company receives the approved contract, it will send the settlement check to you (or your attorney, if you have one).
There are many considerations that go into a worker’s compensation settlement, such as the value of your workers’ comp benefits, the cost of your future medical treatment, the evidence for and against your case, and more. Because you will be giving up significant rights, you should consult with a lawyer before agreeing to a full and final settlement. Maryland workers’ comp lawyers often don’t charge for consultations, and hiring a lawyer typically doesn’t cost you anything up front.