In our last blog post about workers’ compensation, we looked at how cases tend to settle in Missouri. In that article, we said that the settlement amount “is almost always made in a lump sum” payment.
A Missouri Court of Appeals just dealt with a case that did not settle in a lump sum. The case, which has been ongoing for 20 years now, shows why lump sum payments are the preferred method of resolving workers’ compensation claims.
Injured Worker Receives Continued Payments for Medical Care
The case, Donnell v. Trans State Airlines, involved a worker who hurt her ankle in December, 2002. She filed a claim for workers’ compensation in April, 2003, and received a Temporary or Partial Award in September, 2005.
In August, 2011, a hearing was held and the administrative law judge awarded the worker temporary total disability benefits, permanent total disability benefits, and, importantly, costs for all future medical treatment necessary. The Labor and Industrial Relations Commission (LIRC) affirmed the award.
This meant that the case did not close. The workers’ compensation insurance company and the injured worker continued to interact as the worker got medical care for her injury and the chronic pain that it was causing, and the insurer paid the bills.
Worker Files Motion to Commute Benefits to Lump Sum Award
In December, 2014, the worker filed a Motion to Commute her weekly permanent total disability benefits into a lump sum payment under Missouri Statute 287.530. She had fallen on hard financial times and had also become concerned that the workers’ compensation insurance company would go out of business. The insurance company objected, a hearing was scheduled, and, interestingly, stopped paying for her medical expenses.
The hearing got delayed numerous times and was not held until March 28, 2021. For some reason, the LIRC interpreted the worker’s Motion to Commute her weekly disability payments to a lump sum as a Motion to Commute her ongoing medical benefits into a lump sum. It awarded the worker $791,740 to cover her future medical care and to compensate her for the care she received since the insurance company stopped paying for it when she first filed her Motion to Commute her benefits.
While Risky, Lump Sum Awards Bring Closure
One of the big reasons why lump sum awards are preferred over ongoing medical payments is that those ongoing financial obligations are inherently antagonistic. Injured workers have to request them, the insurance company is in the position to question the demand and deny payment, and the fight can continue for years.
Of course, negotiating a lump sum award to cover your future medical care is risky, precisely because it closes the case. There is always the chance that the award is too small and will not cover all of your expenses. That is why it is crucial to have an experienced workers’ compensation negotiate the award on your behalf. They have seen numerous cases just like yours, and understand what you are going to need in the future.
Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
Call the personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at the Smith Law Office at (816) 875-9373 or contact them online for help in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Springfield, or the rest of western Missouri.