Settling Your Workers' Compensation Case in the District of Columbia

Learn how, when, and whether to settle your D.C. workers' comp claim.

If you were injured on the job in the District of Columbia, you can settle your workers’ comp claim for a lump sum payment. While there are benefits to settlement, there are also some risks. It’s important to understand the terms of your settlement agreement and exactly what you will be getting and giving up.

What Is a Workers’ Comp Settlement?

The District of Columbia allows lump sum settlements in disputed workers’ compensation claims. Typically, these settlements are full and final, meaning that you are agreeing to close out your case for good. The settlement money is all the compensation you will ever get for your injury, and in most cases, you will be responsible for your own future medical care. (To learn more about what you might be giving up, see our article on D.C. workers’ comp benefits.)

While lump sum settlements are the norm, other arrangements are also possible. For example, the insurance company might agree to a structured settlement, where your benefits are paid in installments over a period of years. This might make sense if you have catastrophic injuries and won’t be able to work again. In these types of situations, the insurance company might be willing to cover your future medical care as part of a settlement.

Will My Settlement Be Approved?

The District of Columbia’s Office of Workers’ Compensation must approve all settlements. If you have a workers’ comp lawyer, the office will automatically approve your settlement. If you are unrepresented, the office will carefully review your settlement and decide whether it is in your best interests. When making this decision, the office will consider:

  • whether there is a legitimate dispute between you and the insurance company
  • your age, level of education, and entitlement to vocational rehabilitation
  • whether you have reached maximum medical improvement, and
  • whether you have unreasonably refused a surgery.

The office will make a decision based on your settlement paperwork, so you will not need to attend a hearing. If the office rejects your settlement, it must give you a detailed explanation of its reasoning within 30 days.

Can I Change My Mind?

Before the office approves your settlement, you can always cancel or modify it. However, an approved settlement is final and cannot be overturned except in very limited circumstances—for example, if the insurance company committed fraud. Because of this, you should seriously consider consulting with a D.C. workers’ comp lawyer before agreeing to a settlement. A lawyer will know what your claim is worth and can negotiate a fair settlement on your behalf. To find out how much that might cost you, read our article about attorneys’ fees in D.C. workers’ comp cases.

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