Mankato Workers Compensation Settlements Prevent Future Claims, Supreme Court Says

In Minnesota Work Comp Settlements may be good for workers in the short-term, but the law tends to prevent post-settlement claims for ongoing treatment or treatments for new symptoms. This is the effect of a recent Minnesota Supreme Court ruling.

Options After a Workplace Injury

After a serious workplace accident, you will face medical bills, lost wages, unpaid bills, and other problems. The employer’s insurance company may pressure you to settle for enough money to cover those immediate costs, most of them. Taking the offer can be a tempting option. Continuing to negotiate for a payout that covers all or most of your costs is another option, though one that tends to drag out the process.

As a recent court case shows, taking an early settlement can lead to serious problems in the future. Never take the employer’s first settlement offer without consulting a lawyer, or you may be signing away rights to substantial future compensation.

Court Denies Post-Settlement Claims for Depression Treatment

A Bemidji, MN worker settled after a back injury she sustained while moving paper products at a factory owned by Potlatch. Virgenia Ryan got back surgery in 2002 but the surgery did not completely relieve her pain. Ms. Ryan’s post-injury settlement ruled out claims for reasonable and necessary treatments that might arise in the future because of the back injury.

Years later, Ms. Ryan’s back pain worsened. She underwent more surgeries in an effort to eliminate the pain. While in the hospital, a psychiatrist evaluated her and diagnosed her with “major depressive disorder”. After the 2009 diagnosis, Ryan sought additional compensation to cover her depression treatments. According to an attorney for Potlatch, the company had fully paid for the costs of the back and injury and was no longer liable for any costs. This is a likely result that comes after a long period of back-and-forth with Potlatch, the court, and Ryan’s attorney.

After some litigation, the Minnesota Supreme Court overturned an initial decision in Ryan’s favor and sent the case back to the state court of appeals. Their ruling stated that a settlement agreement rules out future claims related to that occupational injury and for any future treatments connected to the future impacts of that injury.

In short, agreeing to the settlement ended Potlatch’s liability for any future costs connected with Ryan’s injury. Her only recourse is to ask a workers compensation judge to vacate the original settlement and let her negotiate a new one with Potlatch.

Know the Implications of a Settlement

Ryan’s recent failure in court brings up an important shortcoming of the settlement process. Submitting a mutually agreeable settlement to the workers comp board is a relatively fast way for you to get financial compensation to help with bills and lost wages, but the settlement might not cover everything.

Before taking the tempting option of a settlement you need to understand how this legally binding agreement might affect you. Be sure you know what long-term care and rehabilitation costs you might face. For example, if you suffer a brain injury and must train for another line of work, who pays for this? Two years later when you realize that you cannot return to your old career because of physical limitations, how will you pay for job training. If you need speech therapy, will the settlement agreement cover it?

Settlement Negotiations are Complicated

Vacating a previous settlement is a complicated process that may not end well, meaning with your getting a new and better settlement that the workers compensation judge approves. As noted before, a quick settlement exposes you to big financial risks too.

If you have been offered a workers compensation settlement that doesn’t seem fair, contact us to discuss your case.

Contact A Mankato Workers' Compensation Lawyer Today

Contact the law office of Chesley, Harvey & Carpenter today at (507) 625-3000 for a free case review. We are located in Mankato, Minnesota.