In a number of cases, a workman’s comp attorney can help workers reopen claims after they have been settled. This is particularly important for employees whose disability has recurred or increased. This is different from a personal injury case.
The factors for reopening a worker’s comp case
However, whether a worker is able to reopen a compensation claim depends on certain factors. Firstly, it’s important whether the claim was closed through the mechanism of “Compromise and Release” or through “Stipulation and Award”.
“Compromise and Release” is the type of settlement that addresses the employee’s claim in totality: in the past, present and future. If the settlement agreement wasn’t accomplished through fraud, C&R typically closes the case entirely and there is no possibility to reopen it.
“Stipulation and Award” and trial, on the other hand, allow the claim to be reopened. The Labor Code allows workers to reopen cases under certain conditions. Typically, there are four circumstances in which courts permit a worker to reopen a settled claim:
- the recurrence or increase of the disability
- the discovery of new evidence reveals that the award is unjust and reopening the case is necessary to remedy an error of fact
- an error in the law rendered the award inequitable
- a clerical error
It’s important to note that there is a time limit to reopening claims. Apart from occasional exceptions, if there are grounds to reopen a case, employees must do that within 5 years starting from the date of the injury. This time limitation is termed Statute of Limitation or SOL in the legal profession.
A cumulative claim
Reopening a settled claim isn’t the only course of action. When the disability has worsened, the employee may have a “cumulative claim” that is generally treated as a new one. In this situation the statute of limitations starts recounting from the “new injury” (the old one which has worsened). However, establishing when the statute of limitations starts counting or when it is reset is rather complicated and the injured worker would need the help of a workman’s comp attorney.
It is generally recommended to think carefully before accepting a compromise and release settlement, because of the possibility to reopen the claim in the future. The injured party should seriously consider whether there is a possibility that the injury will worsen with time and more medical treatment will be required. The assistance of an experienced attorney is very valuable at that point.
Workman’s comp attorney
If you or your loved one have been injured at work and you think the settled claim should be reopened, give our Workers’ Compensation Attorney Group a call. Our caring lawyers are experienced, aggressive and ethical and they are always available for a free review of your case. You only pay if you win and you have no obligation to retain our services if you consult with us regarding your case. You can only gain if you call us so don’t hesitate to do so!