It is quite common for an attorney’s office to receive calls from people looking for help getting a medical bill paid from a worker’s compensation case that was handled several years prior. The first step to take is locating the old settlement papers. Oftentimes the injured worker in question will have retained a copy. If not, then one can usually be found at the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, which is where the documents would have originally been filed.
Every once in a while, it will take a bit more work to find those settlement papers. However, once a copy has been obtained, an attorney can often determine within minutes whether further action can be taken and, if so, how to proceed forward.
Settlement may not occur in every case, but it is still required for all parties to participate in settlement discussions while the inquiry is pending at the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings. Terms can be discussed either through mediation with an independent third party or direct party negotiations.
Over the past few decades, there are several various kinds of workers compensation settlements that have developed. A few of the most common include:
- Full, Final, and Complete: This is typically the most frequent form of settlement, and it is especially common in cases where the insurer has denied all liability to an individual’s work injury. A one-time lump sum of money is given to the injured worker in exchange for closing out all past, present, and future worker’s compensation benefits. Unfortunately, this means the worker’s rights to all compensation benefits are completely closed out and no further action can be taken.
- Full, Final, and Complete with Medical Open: This is often the conclusion reached when the employee is able to prove injury, yet there is a conflict of evidence in regards to the true extent of that injury, including whether it is permanent or temporary. The worker will often agree to the same conclusion after a report is received from an independent medical examination. The result is similar to a full, final, and complete settlement, the exception being that there are some future medical benefits left open.
- To Date Settlement: This type of settlement is not as common now as it used to be. However, it is still occasionally the conclusion, particularly whenever an employee brings a very strong case to court. Generally, the result is that the insurer pays for all outstanding medical bills to the specific date given in the agreement in addition to a compromise for claims of wage loss and other disputes. All vocational and medical claims and future wage loss stays open and is subject to the insurance company’s ongoing defenses.
It is important to keep in mind that all settlements are voluntary and injured workers should not feel compelled to agree to what the insurer wants right away. Discussion is an important part of the system. However, worker’s compensation is a “no-fault” system, which means injured workers are likely never going to be fully compensated for the monetary loss and pain and suffering incurred from the accident. This is because, while workers can be compensated without proof of fault, they are still restricted in their rights to obtain recovery through civil court or losses incurred from other parties. So it is extremely important for anyone taking a worker’s compensation case to court to contact an experienced attorney.
If you are in need of a lawyer to argue your worker’s compensation case, or if you would like a review of a case that was previously handled in court, please consider reaching out to our law offices to schedule an initial consultation.