Many workers’ compensation claims will be settled at some point in the process without the need to go to trial. However, you may have to file an appeal if your claim is denied to prove your right to benefits before settling your case. There are two types of settlement agreements in workers’ compensation cases in Georgia and other considerations you should know about before deciding to settle your claim.
When to Settle Your Workers’ Comp Claim
In Georgia, employers and employees are encouraged to settle workers’ compensation claims whenever possible. Unlike some other states, you can settle your workers’ compensation case at any time in the appeals process, including when you are not fully healed. However, you need to be careful not to settle your claim too early.
If you have not fully recovered from your injuries and return to work, it is important to wait to settle your claim until you reach your maximum medical improvement or receive a final prognosis from your doctor. Maximum medical improvement doesn’t always mean you’ve made a full recovery from your injuries or that you will not suffer at least a partial permanent disability. Thus, you need to wait until this stage of your recovery or until your doctor gives you a final prognosis, so you know all the future medical treatments you will need and when you can return to work—if this is possible. This makes it more likely that your settlement will include all future medical bills and lost wage amounts.
Two Types of Settlements of Workers’ Compensation Claims in Georgia
If you settle your claim, you will enter into a signed, written agreement with your employer. The settlement will also need to be approved by the State Board of Workers’ Compensation (SBWC). In most cases, you will receive a lump sum settlement of what you are owed. In limited cases, a workers’ compensation claim may be settled through a structured settlement where the payments are paid over time.
There are two types of settlement agreements in Georgia. You would enter into one of these types of agreements:
In a liability stipulation, you and your employer agree that the employer and its insurance company are liable for compensating you for your injuries, and you are entitled to benefits. The terms of your agreement will be included in the stipulation, and it must be submitted to the SBWC for approval.
This is basically an agree-to-disagree type of agreement. In this type of stipulation, the employer continues to dispute your right to workers’ compensation benefits but agrees to pay you a certain amount of compensation. These agreements must also be approved by the SBWC. While ideally, you would like to enter into a Liability Stipulation where your employer admits its responsibility for your injuries, a No-Liability Stipulation can be a good compromise to settle a disputed claim for an agreed-upon amount. This avoids the risks of receiving nothing at trial in a contested case.
What Rights Do You Give Up When Settling Your Claim?
You do not have to settle your claim if you believe you’re receiving less than what you’re owed.. However, if you do enter into a settlement, you will most likely be releasing your employer from all claims for additional medical treatments, wage losses, and vocational rehabilitation services arising from this accident other than what is included in the settlement. This means, if you later discover your medical treatments are more expensive or that you must take more time off work than you thought, you cannot pursue a claim for these additional losses. That is why it is critical to wait to settle your claim until you reach your maximum medical recovery or your doctor gives you a final prognosis.
In some cases, a settlement agreement will be more limited, but this is much less common. For example, you might settle your claim to resolve your wage loss and vocational rehabilitation benefits but continue to receive medical treatment benefits in an open claim. Most insurance companies for employers do not want to leave the claims open and prefer to enter into final settlements.
Have You Been Injured At Work?
If you've been injured on the job you need to speak with an experienced workers' compensation lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Augusta office directly at 706.863.6600 to schedule your free consultation.