Massachusetts Court Discusses Settlements in Workers’ Compensation Cases

People that sustain injuries in accidents on their work premises can often recover workers’ compensation benefits. While their employers bear the responsibility of paying such benefits, in most instances, the employee is actually compensated by the employers’ insurer. If the injured employee subsequently files a third-party claim for damages arising out of the work-related harm, the insurer may assert a lien against the employee’s recovery. Recently, a Massachusetts court explained what factors must be considered in evaluating whether a settlement allocation between an insurer and an injured employee is fair and reasonable. If you suffered losses at work, you have the right to seek workers’ compensation benefits, and it is in your best interest to speak to a Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer about the facts of your case.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff tripped in a pothole in the parking lot of his workplace and fell. Tragically, he hit his head on the pavement during the fall, causing him to sustain a traumatic brain injury that led to permanent disabilities. He filed a workers’ compensation claim and received the maximum amount of benefits available from his employers’ insurer. He then filed a third-party complaint against the owner of the property, alleging that its negligent maintenance of the lot caused his harm.

It is reported that the plaintiff and property owner ultimately agreed to settle the claim and petitioned the judge for approval of the allocation of the settlement proceeds. The plaintiff proposed that $8,000 of the proceeds go towards the insurer’s lien while the remaining $92,000 go to the plaintiff for pain and suffering. The insurer objected, asking the court to grant it one-third of the settlement. The court approved the plaintiff’s proposed allocation, and the insurer appealed.

Determining Whether a Settlement Allocation is Fair and Reasonable

On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling. In doing so, it explained that it was bound to accept the trial court’s finding if it was supported by the evidence of record and was not clearly erroneous. Further, it found that the judge appropriately determined how much of the settlement allocation should go toward the plaintiff’s suffering on the grounds that it was well justified due to the severity and permanence of the plaintiff’s injuries.

The court also noted that the insurer failed to explain what portion of the settlement it believed should go toward the plaintiff’s pain and suffering or why it should be less than the amount proposed by the plaintiff. Thus, the court affirmed that the allocation was fair and reasonable.

Confer with an Experienced Massachusetts Attorney

People hurt at work often suffer significant physical and financial losses, but fortunately, in many cases, they can recover workers’ compensation benefits. If you were hurt while working, it is advisable to speak to an attorney about what workers’ compensation benefits you may be owed. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney who can inform you of your rights and help you to pursue the full amount of benefits and damages you deserve. You can contact Mr. Meehan by calling 508-822-6600 or via the form online to set up a meeting.