Often times, in the course of a Massachusetts workers’ compensation claim, lump sum settlement negotiations will occur. This typically occurs after the injured worker has reached maximum medical improvement (medical treatment has been completed), the injured worker has permanent physical restrictions that will cause a wage loss, and/or after an Administrative Judge has issued a conference order or hearing decision. However, there is nothing that you or your attorney can do to force the workers’ compensation insurer to agree to a lump sum settlement. Likewise, there is nothing a workers’ compensation insurer can do to force an injured worker to accept a lump sum settlement. A settlement is only achieved if both the insurance company and the employee agree to a certain figure. In most claims, an employer must consent to their insurance company making a settlement offer to an injured employee. A judge cannot order or set a lump sum settlement amount.
There are certain actions your attorney can take in order to gain leverage with the workers’ compensation insurer in order to make a lump sum settlement more appealing to the insurer and therefore help to effectuate a settlement. The first action your attorney can take to help effectuate, and maximize the value of a lump sum settlement is to file claims for additional benefits at the Department of Industrial Accidents. If the insurer is paying the injured worker Section 34 temporary total disability benefits (60% of the average weekly wage for up to a maximum of 3 years), if the medical evidence of the case warrants the filing of a Section 34A permanent and total disability (66.7% of average weekly wage, collectible for up to, but not guaranteed for, remainder of life), this should be done so that the insurance company realizes that significant additional weekly benefits may be paid out. This increases the “exposure” of the workers’ compensation claim and likewise the settlement value. Another tactic used by experienced workers’ compensation attorneys is to increase the exposure of the claim by filing for Section 36 permanent loss of function benefits, and possibly aSection 28 claim, if the facts of the case warrant doing so.
An experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney will pursue all available compensation for their client in order to effectuate a fair and reasonable settlement of the claim. However, there is nothing that can force a settlement. If the insurance company chooses to pay out weekly compensation instead of offer an acceptable lump sum settlement, they are within their rights to do so. Likewise, if an injured worker does not want to accept a lump sum agreement, they are free to collect weekly benefits for as long as the court allows them to receive them.
Our experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorneys at the Carney Law Firm have developed the reputation for aggressively pursuing all benefits available to injured workers under the Massachusetts workers’ compensation laws. This has allowed us to routinely achieve some of the highest lump sum settlements approved by the Department of Industrial Accidents. Please contact us if you would like to discuss the benefits available to you under Massachusetts’ workers’ compensation laws.