There is often a perception that California workers’ compensation cases are naturally adversarial, but that is not necessarily the case. For many, there are no issues in dispute and workers’ compensation benefits are provided without rancor. In some, there could be a moderate disagreement on such issues as the length of time the worker is expected to be off the job, but these matters can be settled. With cases where there is room for negotiation and both sides are willing, there is the law of compromise and release. Even if the parties are willing and able to agree, it is still important that the worker or the family left behind, in case of a fatality, have legal advice before agreeing.
Employers will not be free of liability to pay workers’ compensation if it is required, but the parties can compromise when there are injuries or worker death. The compensation will be the amount the employer assumes for the injuries or death while working. There will be no release of liability, nor can there be a compromise unless the appeals board approves it. When there is a signed agreement, it will be filed with the appeals board. Then the award will be entered based on that agreement.
In the compromise agreement, there must be the following: the date at which the accident occurred; the average wages the employee earned per week; the disability, its nature, whether it is partial or total, permanent or temporary; the amount that is paid or due and what is unpaid until the date of the agreement or worker death; how long the payments or benefits will continue; and if there is a lien, how long the temporary disability protection will be allowed. If there is an occupational disease or a cumulative injury, the parties can also negotiate a compromise and release.
Workers might not want to go through a long process to get their workers’ compensation benefits and believe that a negotiated settlement as part of compromise and release is preferable. When thinking about this option, it is imperative to understand the law and what will be surrendered if the agreement is signed. Before taking that step, it can be helpful to have legal advice from a law firm that specializes in maximizing workers’ medical benefits, coverage for lost wages and other aspects of workers’ compensation.