The vast majority of workers’ compensation claims in Missouri settle out of court. Only a few go to trial with the administrative law judge, and even fewer are appealed to the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission (LIRC) or into the court system.
Settling your claim, however, ends your case. If you do not settle for enough, you will not have the full amount of compensation that you need and deserve. It is important to understand the process and your rights during this crucial stage in your case.
How Do Workers’ Compensation Cases Settle?
A settlement is a voluntary agreement between injured workers and their employer’s workers’ compensation insurer. The settlement is a binding contract in which you agree to drop your workers’ compensation claim in exchange for a payment. That payment is supposed to cover all of your future medical bills from the injury, as well as any expected disability payments.
In Missouri, the payment is almost always made in a lump sum.
The settlement agreement is made on a Stipulation for Compromise Settlement Form. This Form includes the settlement amount that ends the case, as well as:
- The date of the injury
- The amount of temporary and permanent disability benefits
- Medical expenses already paid
- Any factual disputes still existing
- Any portion of the settlement coming from the Second Injury Fund
It gets signed by the worker or his or her attorney, as well as a representative for the insurance company and the administrative law judge (ALJ).
Will the Judge Ever Reject the Settlement?
ALJs hardly ever reject a workers’ compensation settlement. Even though Missouri Statute 287.390 requires that all settlement agreements be “in accordance with the rights of the parties” to it, the law goes on to tell ALJs to approve all settlements unless they are the result of:
- Undue influence
- The employee not fully understanding his or her rights and benefits
- Involuntary acceptance of the settlement’s terms
How Much Should I Settle For?
The amount of your settlement is the most important part of the process because, once the settlement is final, your case will be closed and you will not get any more workers’ comp for your injuries. Even if your injuries get worse, you will not be allowed to reopen you case.
For this reason, it is usually advisable to reach maximum medical improvement, or MMI, before settling. You reach MMI when your condition has stabilized and doctors cannot do anything more to help you improve. At this point, your future medical expenses and disability outlook becomes clearer.
However, for the worst workplace injuries, you may not approach MMI before the statute of limitations begins to approach. In these cases, negotiating a settlement will be more difficult and riskier.
Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office Serve St. Joseph
The workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyers at the Smith Law Office have extensive experience negotiating adequate workers’ comp settlements for hurt workers in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Springfield, and the rest of western Missouri.
Contact them online or call their law office at (816) 875-9373 for help.