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Once a case if filed at the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (IWCC), it can either proceed to hearing or be settled. If it proceeds to hearing, evidence is presented by both the employee and the employer, usually by their respective attorneys, and a decision is eventally reached by an arbitrator. Once the Arbitrator's decision is reached, either side may file an appeal within 30 days of the hearing. It is important to note that if a condition is found to be work-related, the claimant's medical rights remain open for life for the results of that injury.
A settlement is a compromise of the issues in the claim which is reached between the parties. All settlements must be approved by the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission. A form has been provided by the IWCC for such settlements. This form is pink in color and contains two sides of information to be filled out with respect to every settlement.
The front side of the settlement contract is general information about the claim. The back of the form requires that the claimant sign the settlement contract acknowledging certain facts regarding the settlement. In addition, the claimant's attorney and the attorney for the insurance carrier or employer must also sign. Once all three parties have signed, the settlement must be sent to the arbitrator assigned to the case or the Commissioner if the case is on appeal, who looks at the settlement with a medical report. If the settlement is found to be fair, the Arbitrator or Commissioner stamps it "approved"acknowledging that the settlement is final.
It should be noted that by settling thr case, the claimant is giving up certain rights. These rights are printed in bold face type on the settlement contract provided by the IWCC. A claimant who settles a workers' compensation case is giving up the right to submit the case to arbitration. The claimant is also giving up the right to have the decision of an Arbitrator submitted to the IWCC for review. A claimant further gives up the right to further medical treatment for the results of the accident at the employer's expense and the right to additional benefits if the condition worsens further as a result of the accident. There has been enacted certain procedures recently to shorten this time period.
If a claimant settles a workers' compensation case without being represented by an attorney, usually that claimant must appear at the IWCC with the attorney for the insurance carrier or employer. An arbitrator then looks at the settlement and either stamps it "approved," or rejects it or makes a recommendation.
It should be noted that a claimant that settles a case without having the pink settlement contract approved by the IWCC does not have a valid settlement. Even if money has been received by a claimant where the settlement has been not approved by the IWCC, a claim can still be filed even through the three year statute of limitations has run out. Thus, if a claimant has settled a claim without having a pink settlement contract approved by the IWCC, one should further investigate any legal rights they may have.
These few facts that I have noted in this article do not cover all the circumstances which can happen in a workers compensation settlement. Competent legal counsel should be consulted when there are any questions regarding a workers' compensation settlement.