In PA Workers’ Compensation, any case can be resolved by an agreement between the injured worker and their employer/Insurance carrier by a Compromise and Release (C&R) Agreement. The parties can agree to resolve the matter in whole for both wage loss and medical benefits or just a part of the benefits but it is most common to see resolution for the whole claim. An agreement to resolve the case is drafted on the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation form called “Compromise and Release Agreement by Stipulation Pursuant to Section 449 of the Worker’s Compensation Act” or commonly referred to as a C&R Agreement.
After the parties have agreed to resolve the matter, a Workers’ Compensation Judge will need to approve the agreement and a C&R hearing will be scheduled. The Judge’s role in approving a Compromise and Release Agreement is to decide if the injured worker knows and understands what they are agreeing to and how it affects their Worker’s Comp rights.
An injured worker testifies at a Compromise and Release hearing about their understanding of the terms of the agreement. The Judge has a limited role in a C&R proceeding. The following are common questions that are asked of the Injured Worker to ensure they understand the settlement:
- That the injured worker has read the C&R Agreement; that they have gone over the agreement with their attorney; and that their attorney has answered any questions they have about the Compromise and Release Agreement;
- That the injured worker and their attorney have gone over the pros and cons of their case and the pros and cons of their C&R Agreement;
- That the injured worker has signed the C&R Agreement;
- That the injured worker understands they are not being forced to settle and could continue with the pending litigation or status quo, at least for the time being. If litigation continues, then the injured worker could continue to receive wage loss and medical benefits that possibly could be more or less than the agreed upon lump sum over time, but also you could end up with zero, if, for example a Termination Petition is not decided in you favor;
- That the injured worker understands the terms of the settlement. (Each settlement terms are unique to the specific injury but it typically involves a lump sum of money in exchange for releasing employer/Insurance carrier from liability for the work injury);
- That the injured worker understands their wage loss benefits will stop as of the date of C&R Hearing;
- That the injured worker understands what medical bills are going to be paid by the Employer/Insurance Carrier. (Either past medical bills and/or future medical bills related to the work injury). Also the Employer/Insurance Carrier will no longer be responsible for those bills after a specified date;
- That the injured worker understands they cannot reopen their case even if they get worse or their symptoms return;
- That the injured worker feels they understand the legal significance of what they are doing by entering into a Compromise and Release Agreement;
- That the injured worker has not been promised anything that is not written in the agreement in order to get them to sign it;
- That the injured worker has an attorney of their own choosing and that they have entered into a contingent Fee Agreement with their attorney to represent them in their Work Comp case. In addition, that they understand the amount of the fee the attorney will be receiving from their lump sum;
- That the injured worker is not being threatened by anyone to accept the C&R Agreement and that they are entering into it by their own free will;
- That the injured worker is not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol that would impair their decision making ability;
- That the injured worker will need to verify their status for Child Support Orders. Pursuant to Act 109, any settlement over $5,000 in Pennsylvania requires a search of public records for Child Support Liens. The Injured Worker must indicate that: they don’t have any Child Support Orders against them; or they do and they are paid up to date; or they do and they are in arrears.); and
- That the injured worker wants the Workers’ Compensation Judge to approve the Compromise and Release Agreement.
If the Worker’s Compensation Judge approves the C&R Agreement, the Judge will typically issue a decision within 3-5 business days. From the date of the circulation of the Decision by the Judge, the Employer/Insurance Carrier has thirty (30) days to make payment. If you have suffered a work injury and you have been approached about settling your case, call Calhoon and Kaminsky P.C., before you accept any offers. Typically, Employer/Insurance Carrier’s try to get out cheap as possible and take advantage of the fact injured workers don’t know their rights and what their case is worth. Our experienced Workers’ Compensation attorneys will guide you through the process and explain your rights. Studies show that represented injured workers’ obtain more than twice what unrepresented workers obtain.