What is the Role of a PA Workers’ Compensation Judge in a Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Settlement?

All litigated Pennsylvania workers’ compensation cases require mediation unless it is futile. The term futile can be interpreted in different ways by different Pennsylvania workers’ compensation judges. Some judges force all cases to go to mediation while other judges require mediation only if it has a chance of reaching a conclusion. Mediation of a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation case means an attempt by both parties (the Pennsylvania injured worker and the insurance company). A mediation Pennsylvania workers’ compensate judge conducts this settlement discussion and is usually not the judge involved in the decision of the case. A mediating Pennsylvania workers’ compensation judge will actively work to promote a compromise settlement, but cannot force it. Only your attorney can tell you if the proposals make sense or are in your best interest. You are free to reject any settlement proposal. The negotiations are confidential (i.e., the judge that has your case will not know what went on in the mediation). Often times the offers made are not in your best interest and the carrier is just bottom fishing. If an agreement is reached to settle the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation case, a compromise and release hearing must be held the judge assigned the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation case.

Once a settlement agreement is reached to resolve a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation case, a hearing must be held where the workers’ compensation judge has determine if the Pennsylvania injured worker understands the legal significance of what he/she is doing by settling his/her case. In other words, does the injured worker understand what rights they are giving up in return for the settlement, whether it be a lump-sum settlement or an annuity type situation with payments spread out over time. In order to understand what one is giving up, one has to understand their potential entitlements if there were no settlement. For example, how long can compensation last if there is no settlement? The Pennsylvania workers’ compensation judge does not have the power to reject a settlement if it is unfair or unwise. Thus, it is up to the Pennsylvania injured worker and his/her Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney to protect those interests. It is essential for every Pennsylvania injured worker to seek assistance from a qualified and dedicated Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney.

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