Is Your Workers’ Compensation Settlement Actually Final?
It’s not something you ever expected to happen. When you were hurt at work, your employer’s insurance company agreed to pay a settlement amount. At the time, your attorney suggested that the number was acceptable. In fact, you even had to go before a judge to get the “deal” finalized. Meanwhile, your original condition has worsened. What happens now? Is you workers’ compensation settlement actually final?
The good news is that it depends. Under New Jersey workers’ compensation laws, there is a chance that you could reopen your claim. A few things will matter. Among them, is the way your case concluded in the first place.
When you seek legal counsel, your attorney will need to look at the original court documents that ended your case. (Don’t panic if you can’t locate them. The Division of Workers’ Compensation will have them on record and available for retrieval.)
Some Workers’ Comp Cases are Final
Think back. When you pursued your original workers’ compensation case, was there a dispute about your claim? Does the term Section 20 mean anything to you at all?
Under New Jersey law, the reference to Section 20 settlements refers to NJSA 34:15-20. This section of the law is reserved for lump-sum payments to the injured party. There are all kinds of reasons that insurance companies and workers who are hurt at work use this as a means of ending a workers’ compensation claim.
A Section 20 settlement does not require the employer to admit any liability. That said, the claim is deemed closed once the court has approved the agreement. Again, a Section 20 settlement cannot be reopened.
Reopening a Workers’ Compensation Settlement
In the meantime, you should be aware that there are times when it is appropriate to reopen a workers’ compensation settlement. Of course, the first assumption is that your condition has worsened since the date of the original order.
The rules regarding settlement on workers’ compensation claims appear in NJSA 34:15-22. The judge may have agreed to a settlement amount after listening to the proofs provided by your attorney and the lawyer representing your employer and their insurance company. In some cases, it may be the judge who awards the percentage of disability after a trial.
Percentage of disability? What’s that? At the time of your final court date, your injury is assessed a percentage of permanent disability. Most likely, you already understand the connotation of permanent total disability. However, the court could also find that you suffered some amount of partial permanent disability.
If your condition has further deteriorated and you have not suffered an intervening accident, you may be eligible for more money. This would mean that your percentage of disability has increased since you had your day in court.
NJSA 34:15-27 provides the language concerning modification of workers’ compensation agreements. A reopener claim must be filed within two years of the last time the injured worker received payment. And, of course – there must be proof that the employee was further incapacitated from the same work event.
Has your medical condition worsened since you settled your workers’ compensation claim? Don’t hesitate to call the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone. We have decades of experience helping injured workers. We look forward to hearing from you!