The Pennsylvania Workers’ Comp Settlement Process

Many clients and prospective clients have questions about the Pennsylvania workers’ comp settlement process. How does this all play out?

A word about workers’ compensation mediation

Many times settlements occur through the mediation process. The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act amendments put in place mandatory mediation with workers’ compensation cases that are in litigation. Cases also settle through voluntary mediation. Voluntary mediation occurs when both sides agree to mediation.

The mediation process is an opportunity to discuss settlement and narrow issues in your workers’ compensation case. A mediation is meeting between you and an attorney that represents your employer and their insurance carrier. The mediator is a Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) that is not assigned to your case. The WCJ will go back and forth between the parties to try and come to a resolution that is a compromise between the parties. Two things to remember. First, compromise is needed to make mediation successful. You likely won’t get everything you want. Second, it is voluntary. That means that you do not have to settle. The employer does not have to settle. Both parties must want to settle for a settlement to occur. You can read more about the mediation process on our article about mediation.

When a case is not in litigation, the settlement process may start when the insurance adjuster reaches out to you or your attorney regarding potential settlement. Sometimes they make an initial low-ball offer to you coax you to settle your claim. I strongly encourage you to engage an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to be sure you are getting a reasonable settlement for your case.

What happens when there is an agreement to settle?

Once an agreement is reached, the settlement documents will be drafted with the terms of settlement. These documents consist of the Compromise and Release Agreement, Act 109 Child Support documents, Waiver of Appeal, and perhaps a resignation letter and/or general release agreement. Those are the typical settlement documents. The key to these documents is to be sure the language is accurate and correct not just in terms of settlement amount, but other items such as what happens to medical bills that may be unpaid. Language is critical. That is why having an attorney on your side is absolutely critical.

Pennsylvania workers’ compensation settlements require WCJ approval

Once the documents are reviewed and signed by the parties, then a settlement hearing will take place before a WCJ. The Act requires that settlements be approved by a WCJ. A hearing is held to ensure you understand the full legal significance of the agreement. The WCJ is not there to evaluate your settlement for you. In other words, the WCJ will not make a decision about whether you got too much money or not enough. The only role of a WCJ is to ensure you understand the agreement. A settlement hearing lasts about 10 to 15 minutes.

How soon after the settlement hearing do I receive my settlement check?

Most times, the WCJ will verbally approve the settlement at the hearing. However, the settlement is still not actually approved until the WCJ issues a written decision approving the settlement. That usually happens within a few days after the settlement hearing. From the date of the written decision approving the settlement, the insurance carrier has 20 days to issue payment. Failure to do so can open the insurance carrier to penalties.

A final word about Pennsylvania workers’ comp settlements

Finally, it is absolutely vital that you understand that settlements in Pennsylvania workers’ compensation are final. That means once the WCJ approves your settlement, your claim is forever closed and can never be reopened. Even if your medical condition worsens, even if you later have second thoughts and doubts, even later if you think you should have received more money, you can never reopen the claim. That is precisely why you should have an experienced workers’ compensation attorney on your side.  Additional information on Pennsylvania workers’ compensation settlements can be found here.

It is not just about whether the settlement amount is fair and reasonable, it is also about whether settlement is right for you. There are many factors to consider when determining if settlement is right for you. You can read about them here. Mooney Law has collected tens of millions of dollars on behalf of injured workers throughout Pennsylvania. We are experienced, proven and trusted in Pennsylvania workers’ compensation. Given we are a full-service law firm, we are not out like many personal injury firms to just get a quick fee. We are different. Our consultations are always free of charge. Call us today to chat about your settlement value at 717-200-HELP or 717-632-4656. You can also email us direct at info@mooney4law.com. Finally, you can visit Mooney4Law.com and complete the Schedule a Consultation form. We stand ready to help you.

Mark Buterbaugh

Attorney representing injured workers and Social Security Disability clients in Pennsylvania and Maryland.