In Indiana, there are two types of settlement agreements for a work-related injury.
The first is called a Section 15, or Full and Final Settlement. This option is appropriate in those cases where there are disputes over what medical treatment is necessary, weekly compensation, impairments or total disability. Essentially, a Section 15 agreement states that the parties disagree over what you are entitled to under worker’s compensation law and they are willing to pay you a certain amount of money to settle those disputes.
It’s important to note that settling a work-related claim on a Section 15 specifically bars you from reopening your claim. New claims for either an aggravation of a pre-existing condition or a completely new injury are still allowed. This would be true even if you re-injured the same body part at the same place of employment.
Sometimes a Section 15 settlement agreement is offered to an injured worker by the employer’s worker’s compensation insurance carrier or the employer’s attorney when it is inappropriate to do so. In these cases, the other party may be acting in bad faith. An employer or their insurance carrier who has been found to have acted in bad faith or lacked due diligence may be fined by the Worker’s Compensation Board and ordered to pay the injured worker anywhere from $500 to $20,000.
The second type of settlement is to accept medical treatment, lost wages and PPI (permanent partial impairment). PPI is calculated by referencing a standardized table to find the specific dollar amount for each permanently impaired body part, and then multiplying that dollar amount by the degree of impairment.
The important difference between this type of settlement and the Section 15 full and final settlement is that you do not waive your rights to reopen your claim in the event you experience a change in condition which is a direct result of your work activity. You have two years from the last date for which compensation was paid to apply for additional benefits on account of a change in condition.
Considering that any type of settlement document will probably have been prepared by an attorney, an injured worker would be wise to consult their own attorney before agreeing to and signing a settlement agreement.
The attorneys at Klezmer Maudlin offer free advice and only charge a fee if you need us. (By the way, our fee is set by Indiana law and cannot exceed 20% of the total recovery.)
If you or someone you know has sustained a work-related injury, call us at 317-569-9644. We can help you navigate the deadlines and the forms, and we can help you get the treatment you need and the settlement you deserve.