Washington: Board May Not Reject Structured Settlement Agreement Offered by Injured Worker Who Is Represented By Counsel

Washington: Board May Not Reject Structured Settlement Agreement Offered by Injured Worker Who Is Represented By Counsel

Since 2011, pursuant to Rev. Code Wash. § 51.04.063, an injured worker may, under some circumstances, waive lifetime workers' compensation benefits in exchange for a series of installment payments. Generally, the injured worker negotiates a claim resolution structured settlement agreement (CRSSA) with the state’s Department of Labor and Industries (or the self-insured employer) and then obtains approval by the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals. Since the enactment of the law, the Board has taken the position that it will approve a settlement only when it is in the best interests of the injured worker.  A Washington appellate court has held, however, that the statute, as written, does not permit the Board or its hearing examiner to reject a proposed CRSSA for a worker represented by an attorney because they deem it not to be in the worker's best interest.  The court noted that the statute contained a number of measures, applicable to all workers, designed as a curb against unwise decisions: only workers over a set age may choose a structured settlement, only claims of a certain age may be settled, medical benefits may not be waived, and any party may void a structured settlement within 30 days after Board approval.  The court added that the legislation, understandably, guards even more the interests of workers without legal representation. They may exchange their benefits for a structured settlement only if an IAJ finds that the CRSSA is in the best interest of the worker after considering explicit criteria designed to examine that interest. In contrast, the statute was wholly void of any requirement that workers with legal counsel convince the state that a structured settlement was in their best interests.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is a leading commentator and expert on the law of workers’ compensation.

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance. Bracketed citations link to lexis.com.

See Board of Industrial Ins. Appeals v. South Kitsap Sch. Dist., 2014 Wash. App. LEXIS 1282 (May 20, 2014) [2014 Wash. App. LEXIS 1282 (May 20, 2014)]

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 132.07 [132.07]

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law.

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