If you have filed a workers compensation case for injuries you sustained on the job, your case may be nearing resolution when a doctor declares that you are permanent and stationary. Once you are declared permanent and stationary, your workers compensation doctor will determine how much permanent disability you have, if any, and what future medical needs you may have. Based on this information, the insurance company may offer you a settlement agreement or a stipulation agreement.
Most people are not familiar with stipulation agreements, which may leave you with some questions. Here are a few of the questions you may have about workers comp cases and stipulation agreements.
What Is a Stipulation Agreement?
A stipulation agreement settles the permanent disability portion of your workers compensation case, while leaving your future medical care open. This means that all of your future medical bills related to the workers compensation case will be paid by the insurance company, rather than settling out your entire case and having you pay your medical expenses.
What Is the Benefit of a Stipulation Agreement for You?
The benefit to a stipulation agreement is that you do not have to worry about paying your future medical expenses. For example, if you sustained a back injury at work and the doctor states that you will likely need back surgery in the future, the insurance company will pay for this surgery and pre and post-op care and visits if you take a stipulation agreement. If you settle your case, they will give you a fixed amount to pay for the surgery yourself. But the surgery costs may increase in a few years or the expenses may be more than you thought. You can't go back and ask for more money if you settle your case, rather than take a stipulation agreement.
Why Would an Insurance Company Offer a Stipulation Agreement?
If you may have extensive future medical bills, an insurance company may offer you a stipulation agreement in the hopes that you will not follow-up with the medical care you need or because settling out the future medical care can may cost them a lot of money. Many insurance companies use providers that give them a pre-negotiated rate, which may make it cheaper for you to get the care you need with their doctors rather than settling out the case for its full value.
Before you sign any stipulation or settlement agreement, be sure to consult with a workers compensation attorney. They can help you determine if the agreement is fair or if you are agreeing to less than you are rightfully entitled to. Both types of attorneys typically offer free consultations, so be sure to get the legal assistance you need with your case, regardless of your financial situation.