While there are many benefits to settling your workers’ compensation case, you will also likely be giving up significant rights. Because settlements are typically final, it’s wise to consult with a North Dakota workers’ comp lawyer before you sign any agreements. (To learn how much that might cost you, see our article on attorneys’ fees in North Dakota workers’ comp cases.)
North Dakota is one of the few states with a completely state-run workers’ compensation insurance system. Employers receive workers’ comp coverage through the state, rather than through private insurance companies. North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance (WSI) reviews, approves, and pays out accepted claims.
A settlement is a voluntary agreement between you and WSI 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 North Dakota, settlements are also called “stipulations.”
Full and final settlements are permitted in disputed claims. In exchange for a one-time payment, you agree to close out your workers’ comp case for good. In other words, the lump sum is all you will ever receive for your injury, even if your condition unexpectedly worsens in the future. You will also be responsible for your own future medical care.
In some cases, WSI will agree to an alternative arrangement. For example, WSI might agree to close out your claim for disability benefits but continue to cover your future medical care. Or, instead of a lump sum payment, you and WSI can agree to a structured settlement, in which you receive your money in installments over a period of years.
If your claim has been accepted by WSI and you are entitled to permanent and total disability benefits, you can request a lump sum payout of your benefits. WSI will approve your request if it is in your best interests and if you can show a specific plan for your rehabilitation and eventual return to the workforce. If your request is approved, your total benefits will be reduced to their present value. The amount of the reduction depends on several factors, including the amount of your total award and your life expectancy. A lump sum payment of permanent and total disability benefits is not a full and final settlement of your case.
It’s important to understand the full the extent of your injuries before you settle your claim. For that reason, you should typically wait until you have reached maximum medical improvement. This is when your doctor finds that your condition has stabilized and assesses whether you have a permanent disability. Before that point, the extent of your injuries—and therefore how much you are entitled to in benefits—will be unclear.
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 North Dakota 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.