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How Do Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Settlements Work?
Workers’ compensation provides payments, as needed, for lost wages, and lifetime medical care for a work-related injury or illness. But, you and your employer or its workers’ compensation insurance provider can agree to permanently close your claim in exchange for one lump-sum payment. This is known as settling your workers’ compensation claim.
Because a workers’ compensation claim can pay you both lost wages and medical care, you need to understand how settling your claim will affect both of these.
What Parts of My Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Claim Can Be Settled Permanently?
You can settle with your employer to receive one lump-sum payment for your future lost wages. The amount you will receive will be:
- Whatever you, your lawyer, and your employer agree upon;
- Subject to negotiation; and
- Tax-free, like all workers’ compensation benefits.
However, you must remember, once you receive the full amount, this will be the last workers’ compensation payment you will ever receive for lost wages due to this specific injury.
When it comes to medical benefits, once your employer or its insurer has accepted liability for your medical care, or a judge from The Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) has ordered them to pay for your medical care, your employer must continue to pay for future medical treatment that is reasonable and necessary to address your work-related injury or illness after settlement. However, if your employer believes that the treatment is either unreasonable or unnecessary it will have the right to contest your future medical benefits and deny payments.
A Structured Workers’ Compensation Settlement
Another settlement option available to you through the Massachusetts workers’ compensation system is what is referred to as a structured settlement. In a structured settlement, as it is with a lump-sum settlement, you will agree to accept a certain amount of money in exchange for releasing your claim against your employer. However, instead of receiving all of the money in one lump-sum payment, you will receive a series of periodic payments over a set period of time.
What Is The Workers’ Compensation Settlement Process?
First, either your lawyer will approach your employer, or your employer will approach your lawyer to settle the claim. Lump-sum settlement negotiations will usually begin once your treating physician says that you have reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI).
MMI is the point when your medical condition has reached maximum improvement. This doesn’t mean that you have fully recovered. It simply means that your doctors believe that there is nothing more that they can do to further improve your condition.
When you reach MMI, your doctor will send you for a functional capacity evaluation to assign you an impairment rating. Thus, MMI is also the point when Temporary Incapacity Benefit payments cease and you become entitled to Permanent and Total Incapacity Benefit payments.
Once you, your lawyer and your employer agree upon the terms of the settlement, your employer will draw up an agreement to be submitted for review by a judge from the DIA. A workers’ compensation settlement agreement is not final and binding upon you and your employer until a judge has reviewed the settlement agreement and decided that a lump-sum settlement of your claim is in your best interest.
3 Things You Can Do To Maximize Your Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Settlement
Depending on the circumstances of your case, settling your Massachusetts workers’ compensation may be in your best interest. When this is the case, there are certain things you must do to maximize the value of your claim, most importantly:
Wait Until You Have Reached Maximum Medical Improvement
MMI is the point where there should be no more significant changes in your long-term prognosis and you should have all the information you need to negotiate a fair settlement with your employer or the liable insurance company.
Obtain an Objective Impairment Rating
Next, be certain to obtain an objective impairment rating to calculate your future entitlement to Permanent and Total Incapacity Benefit payments. This will usually require you to get a second impairment rating from an independent doctor to ensure that the impairment rating you received from your employer’s doctor was fair. The difference between a 5% and a 10% impairment rating can be considerable when you take into account all of the future benefits that you may be entitled to receive.
Hire a Lawyer Who Specializes in Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation
Massachusetts workers’ compensation law can be difficult to fully understand without the assistance of an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney. The right attorney will make sure that you receive all of the benefits you are entitled to receive.
There are many attorneys in Massachusetts who claim to handle workers’ compensation claims, but few of them actually specialize in this area of law. Hiring a lawyer who is not a specialist in Massachusetts workers’ compensation can cost you a lot of money when settling your claim.
Contact An Experienced Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Attorney
The Massachusetts workers’ compensation system is complex and many things can go wrong when settling a claim. An experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney can help you understand your rights and obligations and to maximize your workers’ compensation settlement.
To speak with an attorney who specializes in Massachusetts workers’ compensation cases and who can help you maximize the value of your settlement, contact The Law Offices of Richard Mucci today at 781-729-3999 or send us a message via our contact page.