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People often ask if they can settle their claims. The answer is yes, but….
Any injured worker in this state over the age of 50 whose workers’ compensation claim has been allowed for more than six months can settle their claim. The Department of Labor & Industries’ Structured Settlement program (CRSSA) binds the injured worker and the Department of Labor & Industries or self-insured employer on all claim-related issues except medical treatment.
The Department of Labor & Industries does not always agree to a structured settlement. If a Department’s CRSSA claims manager believes the Department has a strong case to terminate time loss compensation or close a claim, they are likely to say no to a CRSSA.
But a worker should not rush into settlement. Someone who is receiving time loss compensation and whose doctor is not likely to release them to return to work should consider the possibility of a lifetime pension. Would monthly lifetime pension payments be substantially more than a structured settlement? If the answer is yes, a CRSSA may not be a good solution.
Monthly CRSSA settlement payments are capped. The first payment can be up to six times the state’s average wage (current max is $28,136.44) and subsequent payments can be no more than 150% of the state’s average wage (currently $7,034.11). The total settlement depends on the facts of the case – monthly time loss rate, extent of injuries, age, work and educational history, etc. Each settlement is unique to the person and the claim, and all factors must be carefully considered.
Any CRSSA agreement between the worker and the Department or employer must be approved by a judge at the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals. In approving or disapproving the settlement, the judge will consider the injuries suffered by the worker, the worker’s age and life expectancy, whether the worker has an attorney, and the marital status of the worker. The judge will also consider any other benefits the worker is receiving (Social Security, long-term disability benefits, etc.) and how the settlement would impact those other benefits.
Once a CRSSA is final, no further monetary benefits can be paid on that claim (such as time loss or a permanent partial disability award) even if the claim is reopened in the future. If the claim closes as part of the settlement and treatment is needed in the future, an application to reopen must be submitted to the Department with medical proof of worsened medical condition related to the original injury.
This is a very brief summary of a CRSSA. You should speak with a qualified workers’ compensation attorney before even considering the decision to settle your claim. Once the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals approves the settlement, all parties have only 30 days to change their minds. After that, it becomes binding on everyone.
An article by Marilyn McAdoo of The Walthew Law Firm.