In Massachusetts, workers’ compensation benefits can be a complex issue that leaves injured workers wondering how their case will be resolved and when the benefits will commence. After the worker has been hurt or become ill, rather than go through the process of seeking or receiving incremental benefits, some prefer to take a lump sum to settle the case to move forward. When considering this alternative, it is imperative to fully understand all the factors that accompany a lump sum settlement. Before agreeing to anything, it is critical to have legal advice.
With a lump sum, the worker, the employer and the insurer will agree to a one-time payment to replace weekly workers’ compensation and other possible benefits. It will be up to the judge to decide if the agreement is in the worker’s best interests. It is sometimes unwise to take a lump sum, so it is important to consider the value of the lump sum vs. possible benefits. For those injured on or after Nov. 1, 1986, a lump sum eliminates the right to future weekly benefits. However, if the insurer agrees that it must pay, any injury or illness that is causally connected to the original injury or illness will be the insurer’s responsibility.
Many workers are concerned that taking the lump sum will result in losing the job. The employer is legally prevented from dismissing a worker for taking the lump sum. The employee can keep the job; get other employment; get benefits the employer owes; seek workers’ compensation in the future; and make a claim for wrongful discharge and other violations. The employer will generally need to approve a proposal for a lump sum. Those getting vocational rehabilitation have certain requirements linked to the lump sum with one of the following: they must have gone back to work for at least six months; they must have completed the vocational rehabilitation; they must have gotten express written consent for the Office of Education and Vocational Rehabilitation (OEVR); or a judge must override the requirements after a notice and hearing.
Before taking a lump sum, it is smart to have legal advice as to whether this is the best course of action for the individual’s situation. As with any workers’ compensation case, there is nuance and everyone is different. Calling a law firm that specializes in workers’ compensation cases can yield advice and guidance on what to do when a lump sum is an available option.