Maryland Workers’ Compensation Settlement

There is no requirement for a person to ever settle a workers’ compensation case. However, if a person does decide to pursue a workers’ compensation settlement, this can be done at any stage of the proceedings. Moreover, prior to reaching a full and final settlement, a Maryland workers’ compensation case can be reopened within five years of the last benefits paid but, once the settlement is full and final, it cannot be reopened.

Due to the complexities that can arise in a Maryland workers’ compensation settlement, it is very important for a person to contact a seasoned workers’ compensation lawyer right away. A lawyer could provide legal guidance which makes it easier to navigate the settlement process and for a person to make decisions that will benefit them in the future.

Full and Final Settlements

An injured worker might think about a full and final workers’ compensation settlement in Maryland if they have reached a level of maximum medical improvement or if they think that they are not going to require any future surgeries or any additional medical treatment.

Sometimes, attorneys will encourage the person to accept a full and final settlement of the workers’ compensation case if the case is disputed, if there is a chance the injured person might not win, or if there is a huge dispute about the extent of permanent disability. The most common and urgent reason to settle a claim is when the claimant is receiving social security disability benefits and those benefits are being offset by the workers’ compensation TTD or PPD.

Typically, when the injured worker, in conjunction with their attorney, decides to reach a full and final settlement of a case, the employer/insurer puts a lump sum of money on the table in exchange for closing the case. Whatever the amount, the person must understand that a full and final settlement is just that. In other words, the case cannot be reopened. In addition to new money, the employer/insured may agree to waive all or a portion of an open workers’ compensation lien.

Liens

A workers’ compensation lien is created when the compensation insurer pays off the injured person’s medical bills or disability benefits. When that happens, the workers’ compensation is entitled to a lien against any recovery or judgment sustained in any personal injury case arising out of the same accident/set of circumstances. In exchange for a full and final settlement of the compensation case, the employer/insured may agree to waive all or a portion of the workers’ compensation lien and may even put some new money in the form of a lump sum on the table. A waiver of the workers’ compensation lien also allows the injured worker to obtain a higher net recovery in the personal injury case.

The attorney’s fee (which is regulated by the Commission), expenses, and doctor fees are deducted from the final settlement amount, and all of this is memorialized in a Full and Final Settlement Agreement, which is signed by the attorneys, the parties, and the Workers’ Compensation Commission.

Impairment Ratings

An impairment rating refers to the percentage of impairment to the injured body part(s) resulting from the workplace injury. The rating doctor chosen by the claimant’s attorney performs a complete examination of the claimant and assigns a rating, as does the independent medical examination (IME) doctor who is retained by the attorney for the employer/insurer. In Maryland, that rating must be performed in accordance with the 4th Edition of the Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment.

The claimant’s rating doctor charges the claimant a fee for the rating, and this fee is noted on the Full and Final Settlement Agreement and is deducted from the settlement amount. Typically, the claimant’s doctor’s rating is more generous than the employer/insurer IME doctor’s rating.

Paying the Settlement

In Maryland, a full and final settlement, unlike temporary total disability (TTD) or permanent disability benefits (PPD or PTD), is usually awarded in the form of a lump sum, with attorney’s fees set by the Workers’ Compensation Commission, doctor fees (i.e. for the doctor rating), and expenses deducted. By contrast, a disability award from the WCC is paid weekly.

Importance of an Attorney

It is important to have a local workers’ compensation lawyer handling a person’s settlement because they know and understand the types of benefits available and, more importantly, know the difference between a good or bad full and final settlement. There is much to consider in negotiating a fair settlement amount and in getting the WCC to approve the settlement. Call an attorney today for more information about the Maryland workers’ compensation settlement process.