Settling your Oklahoma workers’ compensation claim is a big decision. When you accept a settlement, you will receive a guaranteed sum of money, often in a lump sum payment. While this can be enticing, you should carefully weigh your options and understand what rights you are giving up.
In Oklahoma, lump sum settlements are allowed. These are usually “full and final” settlements, meaning that you give up all rights to workers’ comp benefits—including future medical care. The lump sum is all you will ever get for your injury, and you can’t ask for additional benefits later, even if your condition gets worse. (To learn more about the benefits you might give up, read our article on Oklahoma workers’ comp benefits.)
In some situations, the insurance company might agree to a partial settlement of the claim. For example, you might settle your claim for disability benefits but not your right to future medical care. However, insurance companies often push for a total close out of workers’ comp benefits.
Instead of a lump sum, the insurance company might also agree to a structured settlement. In a structured settlement, you will receive your payment in installments over time. This may be useful, for example, if you have catastrophic injuries and won’t be able to work again.
It’s typically in your best interest to wait until you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) before settling your case. MMI occurs when your doctor finds that your condition is stable and not likely to improve with further treatment. Until this point, it will be very difficult to know the full extent of your injuries—and therefore how much you are entitled to in benefits.
The Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission must approve all settlements. You and the insurance company will file a Joint Petition Settlement form and a Certificate to Joint Petition with the commission. If you are entering a limited settlement, there must be an attachment explaining which legal rights will remain open after the settlement.
The commission will then hold a hearing to review the terms of the settlement and make sure you understand what rights you are giving up. Unless your settlement seems unfair or is unsupported by evidence, the commission will approve it.
You can always cancel a settlement before the commission approves it. However, once a settlement is approved, it is final and cannot be undone except in very limited circumstances (such as fraud on the part of the insurance company). For this reason, you should never agree to settle if you are uncomfortable with its terms.
You aren’t required to have a lawyer in order to settle. However, in most cases, it’s wise to consult with an Oklahoma workers’ comp lawyer before agreeing to a settlement. As mentioned above, settling your case often means giving up all rights in your workers’ comp case. A lawyer can assess your claim’s value, negotiate a fair settlement, and structure it in a way that protects your interests. To learn how much that might cost, read article about attorneys' fees in Oklahoma workers' comp cases.