As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, at some point in time your employer’s insurance carrier may offer to settle your Vermont workers’ comp claim. While this occasionally happens in situations in which your claim has been denied — such as at mediation prior to a formal hearing — it is more likely to happen when your claim has been accepted and you are nearing (or have reached) the end of your recovery.
Once you’ve reached maximum medical improvement, the insurance carrier is usually still responsible for future medical treatment relating to your work injury. It could also be responsible for paying you additional indemnity benefits under certain circumstances as well. If your Vermont work injury has left you permanently and totally disabled, the insurance carrier may be on the hook for paying weekly PTD benefits for the rest of your life. In these situations, the insurance carrier may want to limit its exposure to future workers’ compensation benefits by offering you a lump sum of money in exchange for a “full and final settlement” of your Vermont workers’ compensation claim.
A number of considerations go into deciding whether settling your claim is a good idea, and a Vermont workers’ comp lawyer is in the best position to advise you about those considerations. Although all settlements must technically be approved by the Vermont Department of Labor, any insurance adjuster who approaches you with a Form 16 full and final Settlement Agreement will offer you as little as possible and try to pass it off as being in your best interests. For example, I recently represented an injured worker who was offered $2,500 to settle before I became involved; after he hired me, we settled for substantially more. Having represented many of these insurance companies in the recent past, I am very familiar with their tactics. I was regularly asked to draft settlement agreements for insurance adjusters who had negotiated settlements for pennies on the dollar. One worker even asked if I thought he was getting a good deal — because he wasn’t my client, of course I couldn’t tell him what I really thought (he wasn’t!).
I am also very familiar with how insurance companies analyze their financial exposure. Any settlement of your Vermont workers’ compensation claim should benefit both you and the insurance carrier — not just the insurance carrier! It will benefit them by limiting their liability for future workers’ compensation benefits, and it will benefit you by compensating you today for benefits you may be entitled to in the future. Only an experienced Vermont workers’ compensation lawyer can properly calculate this future exposure and settle your Vermont workers’ comp claim for a fair amount. Without a lawyer, it’s very likely you’ll get substantially less than you’re entitled to, meaning only the insurance carrier benefits from that settlement — not you.
If an insurance carrier is approaching you with an offer to settle your claim, please don’t hesitate to give me a call.