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 at any time, 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 Maryland workers’ compensation lawyer right away. A lawyer can provide legal guidance which makes it easier to navigate the settlement process and for a person to make decisions which 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 he/she has 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 their clients 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 as to permanency. In most cases, the injured person would only want to argue to a settlement if they are not going for any more treatment and their medical problems are completely resolved.

Typically, when the injured worker, in conjunction with his or her 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 usually created when the compensation pays off all of the injured person’s medical bills. 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 prescribed 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.

Ratings

A 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 assigns a rating, as does the independent medical examination (IME) doctor who is retained by the attorney for the employer/insurer.

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. The claimant doctor’s rating is generally favorable to the claimant’s case, while the employer/insurer IME doctor’s rating is generally less favorable.

Entering a Settlement

An employee should only enter into a full and final settlement if it is a reasonable amount, when they know for a fact that they are finished treatment, and when they know for a fact that there will not be any future medical procedures, surgeries, or other treatments that need to be done. Once there is a full and final settlement and the case is resolved, it is impossible to reopen the case.

Also, if there is a personal injury case, and the workers’ compensation case is being settled on a full and final basis at the conclusion of the personal injury case, the lawyer should definitely try to see if the compensation lien can be waived and/or new money can be received, in exchange for closing out the compensation case. This ultimately puts more net proceeds from the personal injury case into the client’s pocket.

In Maryland, a full and final settlement, unlike temporary total disability (TTD) benefits or other types of benefits, 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.

What to Include

In Maryland, there is a settlement worksheet that can be found on the Maryland Workers’ Compensation website. This document is called a Full and Final Settlement Agreement. A person or their attorney can fill in the settlement amount, along with basic information about the case, such as the average weekly wage and the amount of TTD benefits paid as of that date.

Also, if there is a personal injury case, and the workers’ compensation case is settled on a full and final basis, at the conclusion of the personal injury case, the lawyer should definitely try to see if the compensation lien can be waived and/or new money received in exchange for closing out the case.

The injured person and their attorney then sign off on the agreement. The attorney for the employer/insurer must also sign off on the agreement, and it then goes to the Workers’ Compensation Commission. Finally, the Commission must approve the agreement before the full and final settlement agreement becomes effective.

Importance of an Attorney

It is important to have a local Maryland workers’ compensation lawyer handling a person’s settlement because he or she knows and understands the types of benefits available, and more importantly, knows the difference between a good or bad full and final settlement, as well as when to accept a full and final settlement given the specific circumstances of a case.

For example, if a person thinks that they are going to need surgery in the near future, an experienced lawyer would most likely advise them not to close out their case. Moreover, if there is a personal injury case, a lawyer might attempt to obtain new money in exchange for closing out the compensation case and/or secure a waiver of any workers’ compensation lien.