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 Vermont workers’ comp lawyer before you sign any agreements. (To learn how much that might cost you, see our article on attorneys’ fees in Vermont workers’ comp cases.)
A compromise settlement is a way to resolve a disputed workers’ comp claim. In exchange for an agreed-upon sum of money, you give up some or all of your rights in your workers’ compensation case.
Lump sum settlements are common in Vermont. This is where the insurance company makes a one-time payment to close out your workers’ comp case for good. This often requires you to give up your right to all future benefits, including medical coverage. If your condition gets worse, you won’t be able to reopen your case and ask for more benefits.
In some cases, the insurance company might agree to a more limited settlement. For example, the insurance company might agree to close out all benefits except for future medical care. However, these agreements are relatively rare, as insurance companies prefer to close out cases in their entirety.
A compromise settlement is different from an agreement for permanent disability compensation. The latter is used in accepted claims, where you and the insurance company agree to your degree of permanent impairment and the amount of benefits you are owed. This t ype of agreement can also involve a lump sum payment. However, it does not close out your workers’ compensation case or cut off your right to receive other workers’ comp benefits.
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 Vermont Workers’ Compensation Division must approve all workers’ compensation settlements. You and the insurance company will submit a Compromise Agreement with the Division, along with a letter explaining additional information, including the disputed issues in your case and a detailed breakdown of how the settlement funds will be distributed. The Division will approve the settlement if it is in your best interests.
Once the settlement is approved by the Division, it is final. The Division will undo a settlement only in rare cases, such as where you can prove the insurance company committed fraud.
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 Vermont 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.
Once your settlement is approved, the insurance company must make payment within 30 days. If you have a lawyer, the check will go to your lawyer. Your lawyer will make any necessary deductions from your settlement funds and then send you a check. If you don’t have a lawyer, you will get your portion of the settlement funds directly from the insurance company.
Although it’s not required, you should consider consulting with a Vermont workers’ comp lawyer before you agree to a settlement. Compromise settlements are typically full and final, meaning that you are giving up all rights in your workers’ comp case. Because of this, it’s important to make sure you are getting a fair amount in compensation. A lawyer can negotiate you a fair sum and structure the settlement in a way that protects your interests.