Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Be Carefule How You Settle Your Workers' Compensation Claim

There are so many pitfalls and issues that could arise when settling a workers' compensation claim.  First thing is that you must have an experienced workers' compensation lawyer representing you and making sure you miss all of the potential land mines.  Second, as a recent Federal case demonstrates, your lawyer has to be careful what types language is contained within the settlement agreement.

In Zuber v. Boscov's, Craig Zuber filed a claim for interference with his FMLA (Family Medical Leave) rights and wrongful termination.  However, the Defendant argued that the case should be dismissed because the plaintiff settled his workers' compensation claim and, in so doing, signed a Compromise and Release Agreement which released all claims. 

The Compromise and Release Agreement provided for a "full and final resolution of all aspects of the 8/12/2014 alleged work injury claim and its sequela whether known or unknown at this time."  This typical language is used by insurance companies when settling workers' compensation claims.  In other words, when your employer settles your workers' compensation claim with you they don't want you coming back asking for more money for other injuries.  Additional language in this settlement provided that "...employee is forever relinquishing any and all rights to seek any and all past, present and/or future benefits, including, but not limited to, wage loss benefits, specific loss benefits, disfigurement benefits, medical benefits or any other monies of any kind including, but not limited to, interest, costs, attorney's fees and/or penalties for or in connection with the alleged 8/12/2014 work injury claim as well as any other work injury claim(s) Employee may have with or against Employer up through and including 4/7/2015."

So, what should a claimant do before they settle their workers' compensation claim?  For starters, it is important that you let your workers' compensation attorney know whether or not you have any other claims against the employer that you intend to pursue or are pursuing.  Additionally, many attorneys handling workers' compensation claims are not familiar with state and federal employment laws and perhaps therefore they do not even explore or consider whether you may have valid claims against your employer or former employer.  Don't assume that your attorney will advise you if you have such a claim, ask, and if your attorney doesn't know ask for a referral to an employment attorney who does know your rights under the law and can advise you.

Lastly, and most importantly, make sure that any and all language inserted into a Compromise and Release Agreement is limited solely to a release and waiver of claims under the workers' compensation laws.  In other words, rather than signing a document stating that you are waiving any and all claims related to your work injury, make sure the document states that you are waiving any and all claims under the workers' compensation laws related to your work injury.  It may seem trivial, but the legal ramifications, as described above, can be significant.

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