Although it may be tempting to settle your workers' compensation case as quickly as possible, especially as medical bills and other expenses pile up, it is important to take a close look at your case and make sure you are not giving up any important rights. James F. Aspell, P.C. is a dedicated and experienced Connecticut workers' compensation law firm based in Farmington, Connecticut. We are certified as a Workers' Compensation Specialist by the Connecticut Bar Association and have been practicing workers' compensation law since 1986.. If you are wondering whether to settle your CT workers' compensation case, consider calling the law office of James F. Aspell, P.C. at 860-523-8783 to tell us about your case, and ensure your legal rights remain protected.
Workers' Compensation in Connecticut
In any type of job, there is a risk for occupational injuries or illnesses. When an employee is injured at work, they are entitled to recover benefits, such as medical expenses and lost wages.
In Connecticut, like many states, employers are required to carry workers' compensation insurance. Under Connecticut's Workers' Compensation Act, Sec. 31-284, when an employer complies with the legal workers' comp requirements, employees cannot sue them for damages on account of personal injuries sustained on the job, or for wrongful death.
Workers' compensation laws are designed to expedite recovery for injured employees and minimize the amount of litigation employers have to face. Generally, workers' comp claims go smoothly and allow employees to quickly cover their medical expenses and lost wages. However, sometimes the insurance carrier disagrees with the amount the employee believes they are entitled to. In these cases, the employee often feels that they are out of options and have to simply accept what the insurer offers. This is not true, however; employees have additional options beyond the insurer's initial offer. Before deciding whether to settle your claim or continue to negotiate, employees should make sure they understand the pros and cons, and in many cases, it makes sense to speak to an attorney to ensure your rights are protected throughout the process.
What Happens When You Settle a Connecticut Workers' Compensation Claim?
When an employee settles a CT workers' compensation claim, the insurer may pay out benefits in the form of regular weekly payments. In some cases, however, the insurer may offer to pay out an agreed-upon settlement amount in a lump sum, or, if the claimant opted for a structured settlement, the settlement amount may be made periodically.
When an insurer offers a lump sum, which can sometimes be a significant and tempting amount, it is important to understand the consequences of accepting this settlement. Below are some of the legal effects of settling your workers' compensation claim.
In Connecticut, there is a distinction between a full and final settlement and a “voluntary agreement.” Under a voluntary agreement, the insurance company agrees to pay your claim, but it does not completely finalize your case. Employees can continue to receive their weekly workers' comp benefits and possibly even receive future benefits, if necessary.
Release of Liability
When an employee accepts a lump-sum settlement offer from an insurer, they are often releasing the insurer from liability. This is referred to as a “stipulation.” This means that in exchange for cash up-front, the employee waives any right to recover future expenses or file lawsuits against the insurer. The reason why insurers often large lump-sum settlements is because, in the long run, it can save them money. Even if the amount of the settlement seems tempting to accept, it is often less than what the employee would be entitled to in total. In other words, by accepting the insurer's offer, the employee is gambling that the amount will be enough to cover all of their present expenses, and usually all of their future expenses too.
No Set Formula
Workers' compensation pay rates are typically set by a standard formula, which considers your typical wages and pays a portion of your expected income during the disability. However, when the insurer offers a settlement amount, there is no such formula. Employees considering settlements should therefore be very diligent about fighting for their rights. If an insurer severely undercuts the value of a claim, the employee may lose out on a significant amount of money they may have otherwise been entitled to.
Connecticut Workers' Compensation Commission
In Connecticut, both final settlements and voluntary agreements must be approved by the Connecticut Workers' Compensation Commission. Final settlements typically involve a written agreement, an acknowledgment form, and an approval hearing. These procedures are in place to ensure that the employee understands what they are giving up in exchange for the settlement.
Voluntary agreements, however, do not require a hearing. Under Connecticut Workers' Compensation Act Sec. 31-296, if an employer and employee reach an agreement as to compensation, the employer must submit the agreement in writing to the commissioner for approval. The Commission will generally approve these as long as it conforms to workers' compensation laws.
Why Settle a CT Workers' Compensation Case?
Although entering a stipulation with the insurer can be risky, it does make sense for some claimants. A settlement can avoid a lot of hassle, and it can expedite the payments. A voluntary agreement or stipulation must be paid within 20 days, or else the insurer is subjected to penalties. This can be enticing for injured workers who have missed out on wages for an extended period of time and need a lump sum to cover costs. While this arrangement can be beneficial to some, it can be dangerous for others who have latent work-related injuries or illnesses that have not been identified. Consider speaking with an experienced Connecticut attorney to determine if you should settle your CT workers' compensation case.
Tell Us About Your Case
Contact Attorney Jim Aspell at 860-523-8783 or fill out the firm on this page to tell us more about your workers' compensation case. We have counseled many clients on the pros and cons of settling their workers' compensation claims, and we look forward to working with you.