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 Rhode Island workers’ comp lawyer before you sign any agreements. (To learn how much that might cost you, see our article on attorneys’ fees in Rhode Island workers’ comp cases.) Below, we explain the settlement process in Rhode Island.
A settlement is a voluntary agreement between you and the insurance company 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 Rhode Island, disputed claims can be resolve with a “denial and dismissal” settlement. This is typically a “full and final” settlement, meaning that you give up your right to all future benefits, including medical coverage. The settlement amount is all you will ever receive for your workers’ comp claim, even if your condition worsens later on. Your employer may ask you to voluntarily resign from your job as part of the settlement agreement.
Settlements are often paid in a lump sum. However, you and the insurance company can also agree to a structured settlement where you will receive your payments in installments (for example, monthly or yearly).
If the insurance company’s liability has already been established, and you have been receiving weekly benefits for at least six months, you and the insurance company can agree to a “commutation settlement.” This type of settlement can be paid in a lump sum or through a structured settlement. These settlements are also typically “full and final,” meaning that you give up your right to all future benefits.
It’s important to understand the full the extent of your injuries before you settle your claim. For that reason, settlements generally happen after the worker reaches maximum medical improvement. This is when your doctor finds that your condition has stabilized and assesses whether you have any permanent disability.
The Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Court must approve all settlements. The insurance company’s lawyer (or yours, if you have one) will draft up the settlement paperwork and submit it to the Workers’ Compensation Court. A workers’ comp judge will set a hearing and review the settlement documents, including your medical reports and other important information. At the hearing, the judge will ask questions about the terms of the settlement and make sure you understand what rights you are giving up.
The judge will approve the settlement if he or she believes that it in the best interest of all parties. However, for accepted claims, the judge has discretion to reject any settlement involving more than 104 weeks of partial disability benefits.
For a lump-sum commutation settlement, the insurance company must make payment within 14 days. For all other settlements, payments will be made according to the settlement agreement.
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 Rhode Island 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.