A DETAILED LOOK AT NEW YORKERS’ OPTIONS WHEN SETTLING A WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CLAIM
BY ANNAMARIE GULINO GENTILE, ESQ. AND JESSICA A. TERMINI, ESQ.
Workers’ compensation is an employee’s right in New York, but navigating the many options when settling a claim can be a daunting and complicated process. Former or current employees who want to close out a workers’ compensation claim to receive upfront funds or take control of their own medical care may agree to settle the claim. In New York there are two types of lump sum settlements: Schedule Loss of Use (SLU) stipulations and Section 32 agreements. Although an employer may propose to settle the claim with a lump sum award, it’s important to note: the employer’s insurance company is under no obligation to communicate the claim’s value or all of the settlement options. That’s where a lawyer comes in an attorney can evaluate a settlement offer from the insurance company, explain its terms, and guide you through the finalization process.
Let’s break down the two types. An SLU stipulation provides a lump sum when there is a work-related injury resulting in a permanent loss of use in one or more of the certain extremities such as arms, hands, legs, feet, fingers, and toes enumerated under New York Workers’ Compensation Law. Once the degree of disability is determined it is applied to a schedule based on the number of weeks an injured worker is entitled to benefits, minus any wage reimbursement already received for the injury. Because the amount of these benefits is clearly laid out in the law, there won’t be a dispute about how much is owed. The insurance company remains liable for all causally related medical treatments following an SLU award, and generally once the award is granted, the case is closed. In certain circumstances the case may be reopened for additional benefits if the injury worsens over time.
A Section 32 settlement is an agreement to close out a workers’ compensation case in exchange for a sum of money. These cases typically involve claims that include injuries to non-SLU body parts, such as the neck, head, or back. A Section 32 lump sum does not deduct prior wage reimbursement already received for the injury. In most cases, a Section 32 settlement is a full and final settlement of the compensation claim, which means employees give up all rights to the claim, including the right to have future medical bills covered or to reopen the claim to seek an additional award. That said, the insurance company can also agree to continue paying for future medical treatment as part of this type of settlement, called a Section 32 indemnity only settlement. But claimants should note that either type of Section 32 settlement, under certain circumstances, may be an option even in a claim solely involving SLU injuries.
The value of every case is different and the type of settlements available are affected by many factors. A well negotiated settlement provides an injured worker with a result that reduces risk while maximizing the amount he or she receives. For this reason, it’s vital to consult with a lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected and your benefits are maximized.
Angiuli & Gentile, LLP, Attorneys at Law
1493 Hylan Boulevard / aglawnyc.com / 718.816.0005