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 Wyoming workers' comp lawyer before you sign any agreements. (To learn how much that might cost you, see our article on attorneys' fees in Wyoming workers' comp cases.)
Wyoming is one of the few states with a completely state-run workers' compensation insurance system. Employers receive workers' comp coverage through the state, and the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services (DWS) reviews, approves, and pays out accepted claims.
A settlement is a voluntary agreement between you and DWS 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.
If your worker's comp claim is denied or disputed by DWS, you will need to initiate the appeals process by requesting a hearing. Before the hearing, you and the DWS will have an opportunity to attend an informal negotiation session. If you reach a voluntary agreement, you can settle your case and close out your workers' compensation case for good.
Settlements of disputed claims may be "full and final," meaning that you give up all rights to workers' comp benefits, including future medical care. However, in some cases, DWS might agree to a more limited settlement—for example, resolving all disability benefits and other compensation, but continuing to cover future medical care.
If your claim was accepted and you are entitled to disability benefits, you can request a lump sum payout of your permanent partial disability benefits or permanent total disability benefits. However, you must file a request with the Workers' Compensation Division, give notice to your employer, and show an exceptional need for the lump sum payment. Permanent partial impairment benefits cannot be paid in a lump sum.
If your lump sum request is approved, your total benefits will be discounted based on the amount of interest that would have been earned. Unlike a settlement, a lump sum payment does not close out your workers' comp case or cut off your right to other 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 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 Wyoming 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.
Although it's not required, you should consider consulting with a Wyoming workers' comp lawyer before you agree to a settlement. Settlements are often 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. (To learn how much that might cost you, see our article on attorneys' fees in Wyoming workers' comp cases.)